Opportunity Zones Under Investigation by Treasury Inspector General

Along with other members of congress, one of the authors of the law that established the federal Opportunity Zones program has asked the Treasury Department to investigate potential abuse of the program. The Treasury inspector general is obliging.

2 minute read

January 17, 2020, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

West Palm Beach, Florida

The Rybovich Superyacht Marina is located in an Opportunity Zone in West Palm Beach, Florida. | Lewington Productions / Shutterstock

"The Treasury Department's internal watchdog has opened an inquiry into the department's Opportunity Zone program after a request in October from three Democratic members of Congress," reports Laura Stickler. Acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar announced the investigation. Questions about whether the Opportunity Zone program has lived up to its intended purpose as an incentive for investments in struggling communities have dogged the program almost since the program was enacted by the GOP tax reform bill of 2017.

Stickler connects the investigation to previous report that "Richard LeFrak, a friend of Trump's, and the family interests of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, among others, could benefit from possible projects in designated opportunity zones." The New York Times, ProPublica, CNN, and NBC News reported similar versions of that story in recent years. Planetizen has been monitoring news about the Opportunity Zones program since its inception at the beginning of 2018.

Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) was one of the bipartisan authors of the Investing in Opportunity Act that was added to the tax bill. Booker's name was also on a letter in October asking the inspector general to look into the selection process for the Opportunity Zone program.

Stickler shares an excerpt from that letter, also signed by Democratic Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri:

"The underlying legislation, the Investing in Opportunity Act, was intended to support the growth and revitalization of our nation's most economically underserved communities," the letter said. "It was not the intent of Congress for this tax incentive to be used to enrich political supporters or personal friends of senior administration officials, as recent reports indicate."

Jesse Drucker and Donna Borak provide additional news coverage of the impending investigation.

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