Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program

Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program
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The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog is planning to investigate the "opportunity zones" program after three Democratic lawmakers called for a closer look at the initiative, acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar told NBC News

Delmar’s announcement came a few months after Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-N.J.), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindWisconsin Rep. Ron Kind wins primary Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Bottom line MORE (D-Wis.) sent him a letter requesting an investigation after news reports indicated that friends of the administration were benefiting from the program. The acting inspector general told NBC News that the report is expected to be completed by early spring. 

The opportunity zone program was enacted with President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE’s tax bill in 2017 and was designed to give tax incentives to those who invest in designated lower income areas. 

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But The New York Times reported last year that Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: DOJ proposes tech liability shield reform to Congress | Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities | House Republican introduces bill to set standards for self-driving cars Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Treasury sanctions individuals, groups tied to Russian malign influence activities MORE told the department to grant Storey County, Nevada, an opportunity zone status, a decision that came after he spent time with the co-owner of a company in that county.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealAARP endorses Democrats' measure to overturn Trump payroll tax deferral Pelosi, Democrats unveil bills to rein in alleged White House abuses of power Rep. Bill Pascrell named chair of House oversight panel MORE (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats call for declassifying election threats after briefing by Trump officials Read Democrats' report countering Republicans' Biden investigation Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden's work 'cast a shadow' over Obama Ukraine policy MORE (D-Ore.) also sent a letter to Mnuchin in November asking for more information on why that county was selected after the department had previously decided it was ineligible. 

The Treasury Department has pushed back on the story, saying officials only reconsidered the opportunity zone designation for the county at the request of local officials and that Mnuchin did not know of the investments in the county.

Other Democrats sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking the office to look into a number of aspects of the program, including analysis on how the opportunity zones were decided.

The department and the IRS also released a draft form to gather information about investments made under the program as they faced scrutiny in October. NBC reported that as of January, $7 billion in investments were made in the program, according to data collected by accounting firm Novogradac.

The department did not immediately return a request for comment.