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 is against the abolition of the filibuster and that he will 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 50-seat Democrats 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. Both Americans for Prosperity and Manchin have said that they believe that getting rid of the filibuster would heighten partisanship.
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 Americans for Prosperity’s Government Affairs Team the spectators. “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 hard 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, Vice President of Legal and Judicial 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 the group’s stance with that of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Sen. Manchin has long gone his own way, and on this issue we 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 reads.
The Koch political network is just one of many groups that oppose the election law supported by the Democrats from outside.
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 held a rally in West Virginia in March to pressure Manchin to oppose laws similar to the For the People Act, according to watchdog group Documented.net.
Some people have defended the Kochs against attacks by their own party.
“People want jobs. They don’t beat people up. 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 said.