Political advocacy, backed by billionaire Charles Koch, has pressured Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., to oppose key parts of the democratic agenda, including filibuster reform and voting rights.
This lobbying seems to be paying off. Manchin recently wrote in a comment that he was against the abolition of the filibuster and that he would not vote for the For the People Act, which proponents say would limit the influence of large donors on elections.
President Joe Biden has labeled some of the election restrictions proposed by Republican leaders in several states as “sick” and “un-American”. The president has praised the For the People Act and said the filibuster needs to be changed.
Sixty votes are required to break the filibuster in the Senate for the legislature to get a final vote. The Democrats, who have 50 seats, have tight control of the chamber due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie.
CNBC reviewed an episode of a cooking policy group Americans for Prosperitys video series along with advertisements created by the organization. The network urges its grassroots supporters to get Manchin, a conservative Democrat, to oppose some of his party’s legislative priorities.
Americans for Prosperity launched a website called West Virginia Values, calling on Manchin to email Manchin, “Be the Voice West Virginia Needs in DC – Reject Washington’s Partisan Agenda.”
It then lists all of the points that Manchin has promised to oppose, including the idea of getting rid of the Filibuster, the For the People Act, and the Supreme Court. It then shows everything the group believes Manchin should oppose, including Biden’s infrastructure plan and the union-friendly PRO law.
Americans for Prosperity leaders participated in one of their video series with their West Virginia state director in May praising Manchin for speaking out against the elimination of the filibuster. The video was reviewed by CNBC after it was posted on the group’s Facebook page.
“A wise man once said that it takes a lot of courage to stand against your enemies, but it takes even more courage to stand against your friends,” said Ted Ellis, coalition director for the government affairs team from Americans for Prosperity, told the audience. “And that’s exactly what Joe Manchin is doing right now. I think he’s showing a lot of courage and we should welcome that.”
“Our base is vital and it would be difficult to say that it is nowhere more important than West Virginia right now, as our base in West Virginia is having a dramatic impact by encouraging Senator Manchin to stand strong on this point,” Casey Mattox, the vice president of legal and justice strategy at Americans for Prosperity, said during the presentation.
Ellis is listed in a recent lobbying report as one of the Americans for Wealth who campaigned against the For the People Act and Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan in the first quarter of 2021. The lobbyists targeted House and Senate MPs.
In a statement to CNBC, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity did not deny whether its officials spoke directly to Manchin or his staff about the For the People Act. The representative praised Manchin’s stance on the bill and compared it to that of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Sen. Manchin has long gone his own way, and on this issue we all agree: extreme partisanship stands in the way of finding positive solutions,” Lo Isidro, a spokesman for AFP, said in an email statement on Tuesday across from CNBC. “Unfortunately, this law, and the tactics some use to get it passed, would make collaboration difficult – chilling debate, exacerbation of partisanship, and a wrong choice between voting and freedom of expression. We are for both. Like the ACLU, our concerns focus on the part that targets the first amendment. And we will continue to defend these rights. “
A Manchin spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Americans for Prosperity also launched a radio ad in West Virginia quoting Manchin himself that Democrats are not in favor of the Green New Deal or Medicare for all. “Encourage Senator Manchin to keep his promise. To reject a partisan agenda that prevents West Virginia from achieving its full potential,” the ad said in the voice-over.
The Koch political network is just one of many groups that have orchestrated external efforts to oppose the Democratic-backed electoral law.
The New Yorker reported on a meeting between Koch leaders and representatives of other conservative groups about how they tried to prevent the law from being passed, but that some of their own polls show that the campaign-funding elements of the legislation are widely supported.
Heritage Action and other groups organized a rally in West Virginia in March that Documented said was intended to pressure Manchin to oppose laws similar to the For the People Act.
Some people have defended the Kochs against attacks by their own party.
“People want jobs. They don’t beat up people. I mean, I don’t agree with their policies or their philosophy, but they are Americans, they pay their taxes,” he said in response to questions about party leaders blowing up the Kochs.
“They’re not breaking the law. They provide jobs,” he noted.