Watchdog asks DOJ to investigate Ivanka Trump over her work on the Opportunity Zone program

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is requesting an investigation into whether Trump violated federal conflict-of-interest law

Jan.January 06, 2019 10:00 AM

From left: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Charlie Kushner (Credit: Getty Images, iStock)

A complaint filed with the Department of Justice calls for scrutiny of White House adviser Ivanka Trump’s work on the federal Opportunity Zone program and her family’s various investments within designated zones.

A watchdog organization asked the DoJ on Friday to launch an investigation into whether Trump had violated federal conflict-of-interest law by advocating for the Opportunity Zone program while she stood to make money from her interests in various projects and companies that could now benefit from the program’s extensive tax breaks, according to the Associated Press.

The Opportunity Zone program offers developers and investors a slew of tax breaks and deferments for investing in a qualifying project within a designated zone — in theory, a low-income area selected by state governors and agencies. One of the most-compelling incentives is that investors can defer capital gains tax from any investment by parking the profits in a project within an Opportunity Zone and any gains realized within the zone are exempt from taxation so long as the investment is held for 10 years.

Friday’s complaint noted that Trump and her husband, White House adviser Jared Kushner, retained interests in at least 13 properties located in designated Opportunity Zones and owned by Kushner Companies. (Separately, Kushner’s family company has spent $13 million acquiring properties within a New Jersey zone. Kushner stepped down as CEO of the firm in January 2017 and does not hold any role in the company currently.)

The watchdog organization behind the complaint, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, also contend that Kushner’s non-management stake in real estate investment firm Cadre, which has launched a series of funds focused on investing in Opportunity Zones, should be considered part of Trump’s holdings.

CREW highlighted Trump’s public involvement in promoting the program and working with primary congressional sponsor Sen. Tim Scott. President Trump recognized the work his daughter was doing on the program last February, noting that she was “pushing this very hard.”

Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Ivanka Trump’s ethics lawyer, called the complaint “meritless” and told AP that Trump “adheres to the ethics advice she has received from counsel about what issues she can work on and those to which she is recused.” [AP] — Erin Hudson

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