VP Denies Accusations After Tlaib Asks For Investigation Into Gilbert's Tax Breaks

WWJ News
November 09, 2019 - 2:40 pm

Dan Gilbert - Rashida Tlaib (Photos by Scott Legato & Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)


DETROIT (WWJ) - Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is asking the government to investigate whether a tax program meant to help poor residents in Detroit was instead used to reward wealthy campaign donors.

Tlaib says that Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert was given tax breaks that were intended to spur new development in poor areas, but were applied to real estate properties in the downtown area that weren't designated as "opportunity zones." She pointed to a report that says Gilbert used his relationship with the Trump administration to win support for the tax breaks.

In a letter to legislators, Tlaib asks them to investigate whether political campaign donations and influence have "overriden the law to reward donors with generous tax breaks supposedly intended to benefit the poor."

"According to ProPublica, billionaire Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans company donated $750,000 to President Trump’s inaugural fund, hosted Ivanka Trump in 2017 for a panel discussion, and last year Gilbert watched the midterm election returns at the White House with President Trump, who has called Gilbert 'a great friend,'" she wrote. 

"In return, three census tracts in downtown Detroit, where Gilbert owns valuable real estate, were selected as opportunity zones," she continued. "According to ProPublica, multiple studies have found that property values in opportunity zones increased because of the tax break, and Gilbert has poured more than $3 billion into real estate in Detroit — the vast majority of which is now in opportunity zones." 

Jared Fleisher, Vice President of Government Affairs for Gilbert's Rock Family of Companies, says it's unfortunate Tlaib jumped on false allegations made in the ProPublica article, rather than understanding the truth of how opportunity zones are designated.

"What they're talking about is the west half of downtown, Corktown and the West Riverfront; that we manipulated the process to make it eligible to be one of these opportunity zones, and that's just black and white false," he said. "The way you get eligible to be an opportunity zone is to meet very specific criteria in the law. Well, that area was eligible, black and white, matter of fact. So that allegation is just impossible. It's wrong."

Fleisher says Gilbert has made contributions to both Republican and Democrat politicians, and that providing money to the presidential inaugural fund is a traditional contribution -- no matter who is taking office.

"The inauguration is an American tradition. Pretty much every major company contributed to the inauguration," he said. "We've got challenges to overcome and opportunities to pursue in Detroit and our country. You've got to work with who is in office and we're not going to write anybody off because they're Democrat or Republican."