Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., dismissed fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as an “out-of-stater” in a statement Friday on Twitter for penning an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail urging Manchin to support President Joe Biden’s plans to invest trillions in health and child care, fighting climate change and other priorities.
But a specific category of out-of-staters accounted for more than 10 times as much in Manchin campaign contributions than in-state sources did from July 1 through Sept. 30.
Employees and political action committees for out-of-state oil and gas companies — most of which are based in Texas — dwarfed contributions from in-state individuals and political action committees by more than tenfold, according to the senator’s newly filed quarterly campaign finance report.
Manchin for West Virginia, the senator’s campaign committee, reported drawing just under $1.6 million in contributions in the quarter, leaving it with $5.38 million in cash on hand.
More than a quarter of that roughly $1.6 million came from the oil and gas industry. Just over $30,000 came from individuals and political action committees in West Virginia.
The quarterly campaign finance report lands with Manchin at the center of the national political universe for withholding a key vote in the evenly divided Senate for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget bill, aimed at strengthening the nation’s social safety net.
Manchin has drawn intense scrutiny from climate advocates for his pushback against what they say is the most critical measure in the budget bill to address the climate crisis. That’s the Clean Electricity Performance Program, a $150 billion program that would authorize grants for electricity providers that increase clean electricity use by 4% or more annually from 2023 through 2030 and penalties for those that don’t.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman has pushed an “innovation, not elimination” energy policy approach that keeps coal, oil and gas in the nation’s energy mix, even as scientists urge immediate and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed to avoid the most devastating, irreversible effects of climate change.
Manchin has made $4.35 million since 2012 from stock he owns in Enersystems Inc., the Fairmont-based coal brokerage he founded in 1988, according to his U.S. Senate financial disclosures. He has denied that his vested coal interests have influenced his policymaking that affects the coal industry. But he has declined to divest his holdings, saying his ownership is held in a blind trust and, therefore, avoids a conflict of interest.
The Manchin campaign’s more than $400,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry are nearly 10 times as much as the campaign received from renewable energy and conservation organizations.
Manchin’s campaign committee received $74,600 from employees and the political action committee for the Texas-based midstream energy company Energy Transfer, whose CEO, Kelcy Warren, contributed $10 million to Donald Trump super PAC America First Action in August 2020.
A super PAC is an independent political action committee that may raise unlimited amounts of money but is not permitted to contribute to a federal candidate or committee, whether directly or in kind.
Manchin’s campaign committee received $3,950 from Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, who contributed $500,000 to America First Action in January 2018 and $2,700 to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s campaign committee during Morrisey’s failed 2018 bid to unseat Manchin as senator.
Many of the political action committees for the nation’s most prominent electric and gas utilities contributed to Manchin’s campaign committee, including Duke Energy Corp. ($5,000), Dominion Energy Inc. ($2,500) and Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. ($1,000).
The political action committee for American Electric Power, whose subsidiary, Appalachian Power, has 1 million customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee (as AEP Appalachian Power in the latter state), contributed $2,500 to Manchin’s campaign.
Manchin has been “listening closely” to American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins amid Congress’ infrastructure investment negotiations, according to a New York Times report from last month.
In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, AEP Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs Tony Kavanagh said the Clean Electricity Performance Program “is forcing clean energy development too rapidly.”
AEP subsidiaries Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power angered West Virginia clean energy and consumer advocates with their request for state ratepayers to pick up a burden of nearly $22 million a year from Virginia and Kentucky customers to pay for environmental upgrades federally required to keep three in-state coal-fired power plants open past 2028.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission approved that request last week.
Kentucky and Virginia state utility regulators, who share jurisdiction over the plants, already rejected the subsidiaries’ proposal as uneconomic. Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power previously estimated that shutting down the Mitchell plant in Marshall County in 2028 — 12 years ahead of schedule — could save ratepayers more than $300 million.
Out-of-state contributions have become increasingly common for members of Congress.
Manchin’s in-state campaign contributors included former West Virginia Senate president Bill Cole, R-Mercer, the Republican nominee for governor in 2016 ($2,900), and Terrance Rusin, president and CEO of Charleston-based behavioral health management company PsiMed Inc. ($1,000).