According to a new report by CNBC, the Koch network’s advocacy arm has been pressing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to reject key Democratic priorities such as voting rights and labor requirements.
Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded advocacy group, has been running an internet campaign to persuade Manchin to oppose bills like the For the People Act, or S.1, the Democrats’ core voting rights bill, and the repeal of the filibuster.
In 2018, the group launched the “Mountaineer Minute,” a video series focused on Manchin’s home state. They urge supporters to push Manchin to align with conservative and Koch network aims in the series, stressing the “dramatic influence” of grassroots supporters. Leaders of Americans for Prosperity laud Manchin for his “courage” in rejecting filibuster reform.
The conservative group created a page on their website called “West Virginia Values.” The page featured a prominent link to sign a letter urging Manchin to oppose Democratic ideas — what it labels “bad, partisan policies.” “Ideas like Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, packing the court and ending the filibuster run counter to the values of folks here in the Mountain State,” the letter reads.
The website also praises Manchin for “holding the line” on ideas like the Green New Deal and the For the People Act, which he has rejected. The rest of the page is devoted to a list of items that Americans for Prosperity believe Manchin should oppose, including the pro-union PRO Act, a minimum wage hike, and a partisan infrastructure plan, all of which the senator has already compromised on.
In March, Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which receives funding from the Koch Foundation, held a rally to persuade Manchin to oppose bills like the For the People Act.
These campaigns appear to have worked, as Manchin recently came out in strong opposition to a Democratic bill that would dramatically extend voting rights, effectively killing the bill. Even if Democrats were successful in repealing the filibuster — which Manchin also opposes — the bill would not receive the 51 Democratic votes needed to clear the Senate.
Manchin’s justifications for opposing many of the reforms advocated by Democrats appear to be mostly bogus, especially in light of the Koch network’s campaign finance discoveries. For example, in a recent op-ed explaining his opposition to S.1, Manchin cites the bill’s lack of Republican support as a reason for opposing it, conveniently ignoring his vote earlier this year for the stimulus package, which was passed entirely along partisan lines with zero Republican support in both houses of Congress.
The West Virginia senator’s motivations for opposing Democratic policies have been called into question before. The US Chamber of Commerce, which also receives Koch funding, stated in April that it would reward Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) for their opposition to President Joe Biden’s projects. One of the key goals of the For the People Act, perhaps not surprisingly, is to reduce the influence of money in politics.
Heritage Action also claimed in the film that they “had a little fun with Senator Manchin” by persuading him to reject both S.1 and filibuster reform.
The Koch network wields great power over Republicans and is at least partly to blame for the party’s current hazardous situation. Manchin, on the other hand, has previously praised the Kochs, claiming that they “provide jobs.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning, a delegation of civil rights groups met with Manchin in an attempt to persuade him to change his views on the voting rights issue, but to no success.