U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) returns to a basement office meeting with other Senators at the United States Capitol in Washington, December 15, 2021.
Élisabeth Frantz | Reuters
Senator Joe Manchin’s political action committee saw an increase in corporate contributions this fall, ahead of its decision to oppose – and seemingly kill – the social safety net and climate change bill 1 , $ 75 trillion from President Joe Biden.
Manchin’s leadership PAC Country Roads received 17 corporate contributions in October and 19 last month, according to a CNBC analysis of Federal Election Commission files. None of the four months leading up to October saw so many corporate contributions.
The White House unveiled in October the framework of its bill, dubbed the Build Back Better Act. It included around $ 550 billion to fight climate change by investing in green technologies. Manchin, a conservative Democrat who has taken advantage of his ties to the coal industry, has opposed key climate provisions in the legislation.
In November, Country Roads PAC received corporate contributions ranging from $ 2,500 to $ 5,000. Donors included financial giants such as American Express and Goldman Sachs, aerospace and defense leader Lockheed Martin, health insurance companies UnitedHealth Group and Blue Cross Blue Shield, and natural gas company CNX Resources. . The PAC raised over $ 110,000 in November.
Country Roads raised more than $ 150,000 in October from corporate donors such as Verizon, Union Pacific, Wells Fargo and PAC related to the coal and mining industries. Manchin, a conservative Democrat, represents West Virginia, which voted overwhelmingly for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. The state is a key location for the fossil fuel industry.
Businesses, business leaders and outside groups have pressured Manchin to oppose key elements of the Democratic administration’s platform since his party won a slight majority in the Senate following the 2020 elections.
The Koch Network pressured Manchin to oppose key pieces of the legislation, while billionaires such as Nelson Peltz and Ken Langone encouraged him as he opposed his own party. Langone said he plans to host a fundraising event for the West Virginia lawmaker, who plans to run for re-election in 2024.
Jonathan Kott, who previously worked for Manchin as a communications consultant and is now a lobbyist, donated $ 2,500 to Manchin PAC management at the end of November. Kott began lobbying for energy giant ExxonMobil in the third quarter after being hired by Capitol Counsel earlier this year.
Manchin said on Sunday he would not back Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion social spending and climate policy bill after months of negotiations with the president, his team and congressional leaders. It was the latest in a series of problems Manchin pushed back against his own party.
In October and November, a period that coincided with Manchin’s fight against his own party on the agenda, his PAC spent thousands of dollars on hotel reservations and travel.
In November, the PAC leadership spent more than $ 40,000 at the Greenbrier, a luxury resort in West Virginia, owned by the family of Republican Governor Jim Justice. The November FEC file shows that the money was used for catering, accommodation, food and drink.
In October, PAC spent more than $ 1,000 on the trips of Manchin’s son Joseph Manchin IV, according to this month’s file. The Intercept reported that Manchin’s son held senior positions at companies with links to the West Virginia lawmaker.
PAC spent an additional $ 1,000 on the Sawgrass Marriot, a golf resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and over $ 2,000 on catering for an event at RPM Italian, a restaurant in Washington, DC The PAC also spent just over $ 10,000 this month as a deposit. for an event at the Greenbrier.
The purpose of the thousands of dollars spent on hotels, meals and travel is unclear. A representative from the Manchin office did not return a request for comment.
Lawmakers often use their leadership PACs on issues that watchdogs say are lightly regulated outside of politics, according to research by nonprofit groups Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center.
“The first issue and the Campaign Legal Center found that executive PACs of 120 members of Congress spent less than 50% on politics between January 2019 and December 2020,” the study says. The Manchin PAC, according to the report, spent around 65% of the funds during this period on what the researchers describe as politics, leaving nearly 35% to be spent on travel, hotels, meals, campaign staff and other investments.
While leadership PACs are meant to help fund election candidates, the report from nonprofits says it appears many lawmakers are simply using the money at fancy resorts and restaurants.
“Instead, such spending patterns make it look like some politicians are just fundraising somewhere fancy to pay for the next fundraiser in the next fancy destination – creating an endless fundraising cycle in restaurants and luxury resorts, much of which is paid for with special interest money at no cost to the wallets of lawmakers, ”the report said.
Manchin’s PAC donated some of its money to a political campaign, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The PAC sent $ 10,000 to the political operation of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., At the start of the 2022 re-election campaign cycle. Nevada’s race is expected to be competitive.
Manchin and Biden’s agenda
Manchin has been at the heart of several political debates that affect businesses in recent months, in large part because only he can achieve a simple majority vote in the Senate at 50-50.
In June, he voiced his opposition to the For the People Act, a bill that could make changes in future elections. The bill has passed the House but has not yet been submitted to the Senate.
When a debate ensued on Capitol Hill over raising corporate taxes, Manchin said he would not go beyond raising corporate taxes from 21% to 25 %. After Democrats offered to enact a tax on billionaires, Manchin said he disagreed.
Manchin ultimately backed the Democratic plan to impose a 15% minimum corporate tax on the reported income of large corporations. He also helped craft and then advocated for the $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan that became law last month.
Additionally, the conservative Democrat voted with Republicans to block the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for private businesses.
Manchin’s most prominent role came in crafting Biden’s Build Back Better Act that would transform social services for workers in the United States, set the minimum corporate tax rate, and make the biggest federal investment ever made in the fight against climate change.
The senator urged Democratic leaders to halve the price of the bill to $ 1.75 trillion from $ 3.5 trillion initially.
When the White House announced a framework agreement on the bill in October, the administration noted that it intervened after officials negotiated “in good faith” with Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat. from Arizona.
The West Virginia lawmaker has never publicly backed the deal, even though the House passed it in November with the complementary infrastructure bill.