Manchin’s political money influenced his oil & gas deal in climate legislation

Sen. Joe Manchin

By Srijita Datta and Jorja Siemons | OpenSecrets

Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) campaign is funded by contributions from the PAC and affiliates of an oil and gas company tied to his son-in-law, an OpenSecrets analysis found.

The senator, a key Senate swing vote, announced on July 27 that he struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to include climate legislation in Democrats’ long-negotiated reconciliation bill.

The legislation requires a decade-long extension on oil and gas drilling on federal land in exchange for funds to transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels. It would also would pump nearly $370 billion into climate and energy programs.

The deal follows Manchin’s repeated opposition to Democratic climate-related proposals, including with the Build Back Better bill and then the Democrats’ reconciliation bill earlier this month.

Even as some climate activists celebrate Manchin’s reversal, others have expressed worry that the deal’s vague language leaves questions about continued fossil fuel reliance unanswered. The Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would have made up for nearly 42% of the original bill’s emission cuts, is no longer included

Manchin’s campaign continues to be largely funded by the oil and gas industry — including by companies tied to his own family. 

Affiliates of Enterprise Product Partners, a Houston-based natural gas and crude oil pipeline company, have given Manchin nearly $98,000 this election cycle alone — including $5,500 from its corporate PAC. Marshall Roberts, an asset optimization manager and part of the company’s leadership, is married to Manchin’s daughter, Brooke.

Manchin’s political contributions from affiliates of the company have increased since the 2020 election cycle when Manchin received $4,500 from the company’s PAC. Roberts began working for Enterprise in 2020.

Country Roads PAC, Manchin’s leadership PAC, also received over $57,000 from Enterprise Product Partners’ PAC and affiliates this election cycle, including $5,000 from chief Executive Officer Randall Fowler last August.

Manchin’s campaign committee and leadership PAC received more from the PAC and affiliates of Enterprise Product Partners than any other company.

Enterprise Product Partners’ affiliates are also a top contributor to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Manchin has served since 2010 and is currently the chairman of. This year the company’s PAC and affiliates have contributed over $369,700 to members of the committee.

The company spent $380,000 lobbying in the first half of 2022 on issues including the Build Back Better bill, the Clean Energy for America Act and the Financing Our Energy Future Act. A lobbying disclosure filed by the company states that this also included “federal tax issues related to the tax treatment of publicly-traded partnerships.”

This Houston-based oil and gas company is not the only family-linked company that Manchin has financial ties to. According to his latest financial disclosures, Manchin owns between $1 million and $5 million worth of shares in the coal brokerage firm Enersystems – which he founded and is currently owned by his son. The firm accounts for 71% of Manchin’s investments, and a third of his total net worth, according to reporting by The Guardian.

Manchin transferred day-to-day operational control of Enersystems to his son in 2000 after becoming West Virginia’s secretary of state. According to The New York Times, Manchin moved his own company holdings into a blind trust while he served as governor. 

In addition to benefiting financially from family-tied organizations, Manchin has received large checks from oil and gas executives at Georgia Power, Southern Company Gas and Alaska Oil & Gas Association, among others. Lobbyists on K Street including ConocoPhillips’ Andrew Lundquist and the American Council on Renewable Energy’s Allison Nyholm are also Manchin donors, according to contribution data compiled by OpenSecrets and reporting by POLITICO.

Recent lobbyist contribution reports due semi-annually on Aug. 1 confirm that Manchin received contributions from several lobbyists, corporate PACs and affiliates of oil and gas companies. Notable companies include Shell USAMarathon Oil CorporationOvintiv Inc, and PG&E Corp, among others.

When asked for comment on the lobbying and contributions of Enterprise Product Partners and Enersystems, Manchin’s press secretary Sam Runyon pointed to the senator’s July 27 statement on his agreement with Schumer. 

“I support a plan that will advance a realistic energy and climate policy that lowers prices today and strategically invests in the long game,” Manchin said in the statement. “[I]t is vital we not undermine our super power status by removing dependable and affordable fossil fuel energy before new technologies are ready to reliably carry the load. This legislation ensures that the market will take the lead, rather than aspirational political agendas or unrealistic goals, in the energy transition that has been ongoing in our country.”

Runyon declined to comment further.

Manchin’s vote in the Senate

During his first year in the White House, President Joe Biden announced a goal to cut down on planet-heating emissions by 2050 and reduce them in half by 2030.

West Virginia University study found that the Build Back Better framework would have reduced almost 80% of emissions by 2030. It would have also have invested millions of dollars in renewable energy production.

In an evenly divided Senate with a marginal Democratic majority, Democrats cannot lose a vote if they want to pass any legislation. Build Back Better was one of their priority bills, and it narrowly passed the House last year but failed to pass the Senate.

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which Manchin agreed to pursue last week, is significant for climate investments but still falls short of some of the broader Build Back Better goals that originally included massive domestic spending.

Manchin’s refusal to support Build Back Better isn’t the first time he disagreed with his party. He was also the only Democrat in the Senate who voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act – a Democratic-led bill that would have effectively codified a constitutional right to abortion had it been passed.

The senator has been vocal about his hesitancy since Build Back Better passed the House in November last year. and released a statement that mentioned “serious reservations” regarding the bill. 

“My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face,” he wrote, pointing to $29 trillion expense of the bill and adding that he cannot vote to move forward on “this mammoth piece of legislation.”

Now that Manchin has agreed to support the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, Democratic leaders aim to hold a vote in the Senate as early as this week — before the chamber breaks for August recess. Schumer announced Thursday that he hoped to call a vote to begin debate on the package Saturday.

After Manchin’s announcement, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources also held a hearing on a suite of energy-related bills that await Manchin’s greenlight.

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