Opportunity zone funds continue to come under political pressure despite the proliferation of new funds forming around the country seeking investors.
Last Friday Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a first-termer who sits on the Financial Services and Oversight and Reform committees, and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., introduced legislation that would remove opportunity zones from the U.S. tax code.
The bill follows several others that were recently introduced in Congress as well as congressional calls for investigations into opportunity zones following news reports about political favoritism involved in the designation of zones.
ProPublica found that the White House and Maryland governor’s office designated opportunity zones that included tracts owned by wealthy businessmen after initially denying those selections. In the case of the White House, it was a property in Detroit — Tlaib’s district includes parts of the city — owned by Quicken Loans co-founder and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. In the Maryland case, the tract was owned by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s private development company.
In addition, The New York Times found the Treasury Department did the same about-face with a tract in Storey County, Nevada, that included a 700-acre site owned by former former junk bond king and convicted felon Michael Milken as an opportunity zone.
All three designations were initially denied because the tracts failed to meet poverty level requirements.
“The American people have been scammed by Opportunity Zones,” said Tlaib in a statement. “Opportunity Zones were supposed to help uplift low-income communities and those living in poverty, but instead we are seeing them benefit billionaires and their luxury projects. … We must repeal them to stop yet another form of corporate greed from hurting our communities and tarnishing our democracy.”
Tlaib had previously written the chairmen of the House Committee on Ways and Means and two congressional subcommittees requesting investigative hearings into whether political campaign contributions influenced the designation of opportunity zones in her district and across the country.