Republicans grill Biden public lands agency pick over finances, advocacy
Republicans on the Senate Energy Committee on Tuesday grilled Tracy Stone-Manning, President Biden’s pick to lead the Bureau of Land Management, questioning her on partisanship and her personal finances.
While Democrats praised Stone-Manning for her record on issues of importance to the western U.S., ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) expressed concerns that she “does not fit the bill” to direct the bureau.
“Her career has been defined by her support for policies that restrict multiple-use activities on public lands,” Barrasso said in his opening statement, also citing her opposition to moving Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Colorado.
The GOP senator pressed Stone-Manning about political ads run by the group Montana Conservation Voters last year targeting Sen. Steve Daines’s (R-Mont.) conservation record. Stone-Manning served as treasurer and was on the group’s board of directors at the time.
“I have led nonprofit organizations and I have been on the board of nonprofit organizations, and I take very seriously the difference between those two roles,” Stone-Manning responded, adding that she had a policy of “never micromanaging staff” over the course of her nonprofit work.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced Stone-Manning, who served as his regional state director from 2007 to 2012, and defended her from Barrasso’s allegations.
“The points that you’ve brought up, about appropriate use, did not describe the person that I just talked about,” Tester said. “This person listens, she works, she does the right thing. I would not be here today introducing her if I thought she was the person you described. This is a good person that has a good heart that understands the value of our public lands.”
Daines himself also questioned Stone-Manning, asking if she continued to object to the Keystone XL pipeline. Stone-Manning declined to answer, saying she “cannot and would not second-guess” Biden’s decision to halt the oil pipeline.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), meanwhile, questioned Stone-Manning about her personal finances, raising a 12-year personal loan mentioned in her disclosures from during her time working for Tester, noting that she received the loan with an interest rate of 6 percent at a time that the going rate was 11 percent. Marshall went on to ask if she considered this a conflict of interest during a period when she was working for a U.S. senator, and whether she was aware that the interest rate was below average.
In response, Stone-Manning called financial ethics “deeply important to me,” saying “like many people in 2008, we got smacked by the recession, and a friend loaned us some money to make sure we could get through it.”
Asked if she felt she “gained something” with the terms of the loan, Stone-Manning responded “I was grateful for the help from a friend.”
Stone-Manning testified alongside three other nominees, including Shalanda Baker, nominated to direct the Department of Energy’s Office of Minority Economic Impact; Samuel T. Walsh, nominated as the department’s general counsel; and Andrew Light, nominated as assistant Energy secretary for international affairs.