Interior nominee discloses belated tax filing, provides fourth account of her 2018 income

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) says she didn't get an extension for 2018 taxes, filed return last December nearly two years late.

Published: March 5, 2021 4:33pm

Updated: March 5, 2021 11:23pm

Rep. Deb Haaland, President Biden's pick for interior secretary, belatedly filed a tax return last December for calendar year 2018 without getting an extension and has now given senators reviewing her nomination a fourth different account of how much money she earned that year, Just the News has learned.

Haaland, in line to become the first Native American cabinet secretary, recently disclosed details about her belated tax filing in supplemental answers to her required nominee's questionnaire submitted to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"I filed my 2018 federal income tax return in December 2020 without an extension. In 2018, my income was $2,250," the New Mexico Democrat wrote in a supplemental answer filed on Feb. 12 after the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, pressed for more answers.

Key Republicans signaled Friday they are dissatisfied with Haaland's answers and the accuracy of her financial accounting even as her nomination advances toward approval.

"As he was after the actual hearing, Ranking Member Barrasso is deeply dissatisfied with the content of many of Rep. Haaland's responses to questions for the record," his office said. "Questions from Senator Barrasso and a number of Committee Members included multiple parts and her responses failed to address them."

The $2,250 income figure she provided for 2018 in the supplemental answer is different than the various totals she reported in her congressional ethics forms and subsequent amendments.

Initially, when Haaland filed her first financial disclosure report as a member of Congress on May 13, 2019, she reported her only source of income in 2018 was $30,550 earned as an independent contractor for her tribe's Laguna Development Corp. She also listed no liabilities on the form.

But on Jan. 5 of this year, as her nomination was being forwarded to the Senate, she filed an amendment to the 2019 form adding $16,000 in "salary" from the San Felipe Casino, a gambling outlet near Santa Fe run by the San Felipe Pueblo. The casino recently changed its name to Black Mesa Casino.

The amendment also listed student loan debts of between $15,001 and $50,000 that were not on her original 2019 form.

Then last week, Haaland again amended her 2019 financial disclosure report, eliminating the $16,000 in salary in 2018 from the San Felipe Casino and reducing the amount she claimed she was paid by the Laguna Development Corp. to $2,250 from $30,550 while adding $1,641 in income from a previously unlisted "John Hancock retirement distribution." That report put her 2018 income at $3,891, or less than a third of the federal  poverty level for an individual in 2018.

Despite lingering questions about the accuracy of her legally required financial disclosures, the Senate panel endorsed her nomination Thursday by an 11-9 margin, sending it to the full Senate.

Haaland has apologized to senators for what she said were mistakes in reporting her income, but did not offer a fuller explanation for why her 2018 income estimates have kept changing as her nomination advances.

"To the extent that financial disclosure filings to the United States House of Representatives include inadvertent errors, I will correct them as soon as possible," she wrote in a response to one of Barrasso's set of questions.

As for the tax filing, she suggested to senators that she made it in December as her nomination was being vetted, uncertain whether she earned enough income to warrant filing for taxes.

"I respectfully inform the Committee that I requested an IRS compliance review and was subsequently informed by the IRS that I may not have had a federal tax filing obligation in 2018 based on my reported income," she wrote Barrasso.

Barrasso and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) have been the most vocal opponents of Haaland's nomination, citing what they said was a lack of management experience and her pro-green-energy opposition to oil and gas exploration on federal lands.

Barrasso's office said Friday he is dissatisfied by the nominee's answers and her inability to provide a clear picture of her earnings. "Senator Barrasso voted against Rep. Haaland's nomination in committee due to her policy views and statements, as well as her answers to questions," his office said.

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