New reporting by CNBC has found that the advocacy arm of Charles Koch’s network has been pressuring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) to oppose key Democratic priorities like voting rights and labor provisions.
The Koch advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, has been orchestrating an online campaign to push Manchin to stand against proposals like the For The People Act, or S.1, Democrats’ keystone voting rights bill, and the abolition of the filibuster.
In 2018, the group started a video series focused on Manchin’s home state called the “Mountaineer Minute.” In the series, they call on supporters to urge Manchin to align with conservative and Koch network priorities, citing the “dramatic impact” of their grassroots supporters. Americans for Prosperity leaders also praise Manchin for his “courage” in opposing filibuster abolition.
The conservative group has created a page on their website called “West Virginia Values” with 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 lists policies that Manchin has opposed like the Green New Deal and the For the People Act, praising him for “hold[ing] the line.” The rest of the page is dedicated to a list of policies that Americans for Prosperity says Manchin should oppose like the pro-union PRO Act, minimum wage increase and a partisan infrastructure package, the latter two of which the senator has already compromised.
Heritage Action, the advocacy side of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which receives funding from the Koch Foundation, also organized a rally in March to get Manchin to oppose legislation like the For the People Act.
Evidently these campaigns have worked because Manchin recently came out in strong opposition to the Democratic legislation that will greatly expand voting rights, effectively killing the legislation. Even if Democrats succeeded in abolishing the filibuster — which also Manchin opposes — the legislation would not get the 51 Democratic votes it would need to pass the Senate.
Manchin’s reasons for opposing many of the reforms proposed by Democrats sound largely spurious, especially in light of the revelations about the Koch network campaign. In the op-ed he recently penned explaining his opposition to S.1, for example, Manchin cites the lack of Republican support for the bill as his reason for opposing it, conveniently leaving out mention of his vote earlier this year for the stimulus package, which was passed entirely along partisan lines with zero support from Republicans in both houses of Congress.
This is not the first time the West Virginia senator’s motives for opposing Democratic priorities have come into question. Back in April, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also receives Koch money, announced that it would be rewarding Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) for their stance against President Joe Biden’s initiatives. Perhaps not coincidentally, one of the major aims of the For the People Act is to cut back on the influence of money in politics.
Groups like Heritage Action have their own reasons for opposing the For the People Act, however. In a leaked video obtained by Mother Jones, Heritage Action leaders bragged about writing voter suppression legislation that is then hawked by Republican state legislators across the country.
In the video, Heritage Action also said they “had a little fun with Senator Manchin” in pressuring him to oppose both S.1 and filibuster abolition.
The Koch network holds enormous sway over Republicans and is at least partially responsible for the dangerous state of the party today. Manchin, however, has previously defended the Koch family, saying “they’re providing jobs.”
Meanwhile, a group of civil rights leaders met with Manchin on Tuesday morning in an attempt to get him to change his mind on the voting rights issue, but to no avail.