The Democrat who blocks gradual change is beholden to big oil. Surprised? | Alex kotch
AAs ‘millennial’ heatwaves caused by the climate crisis rock the west coast and biblical floods engulf major cities, Senate Democrats are negotiating a $ 3.5 billion budget that could include an attempt to slow down use of fossil fuels over the next decade.
A prominent senator is very concerned about proposals to reduce the consumption of oil, gas and coal. He recently argued that those who want to âget rid ofâ fossil fuels are wrong. Eliminating fossil fuels will not help fight global warming, he argued, against all evidence. âIf anything, it would be worse. “
Which right-wing Republican uttered these bogus words denying the climate crisis?
Bad question. The speaker was a Democrat: Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
West Virginia is a large coal-producing state. But Manchin’s investment in dirty energy goes far beyond the economic interests of the voters who elect him every six years. In fact, charcoal made Manchin and his family very wealthy. He founded the private coal brokerage firm Enersystems in 1988 and still owns a significant stake in the company, which his son currently runs.
In 2020 alone, Manchin raked in nearly $ 500,000 in earnings from Enersystems, and he owns up to $ 5 million in company stock, according to his latest financial disclosure.
Despite this conflict of interest, Manchin chairs the influential Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over coal production and distribution, coal research and development, and coal conversion, as well as on âglobal climate changeâ.
He even gave a pro-coal speech in May to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) while personally profiting from Enersystems coal sales to EEI member utilities, as Sludge recently reported.
Manchin is one of many congressmen who are personally invested in the fossil fuel industry – dozens of congressmen own stock in Exxon – but he is among the biggest profiteers. By the end of 2019, he had invested more money in dirty energy than any other senator.
How can this be? Wouldn’t basic ethics prevent someone from being in charge of legislation that could benefit them materially? Unfortunately, the conflict of interest rules in the Senate are remarkably weak. And guess who is looking to remove conflict of interest rules from a democracy reform bill in 2021?
His proposal “leaves out wording that S1 would add to federal law prohibiting lawmakers from working on bills primarily to advance their financial interests,” Sludge reported.
Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, used the equally divided chamber to block Joe Biden’s agenda. In the process, he has become arguably the most powerful person in Washington. Virtually no Democratic legislation can be passed without his vote.
That’s a problem – especially since Manchin seems to be an honorary Republican at times. Earlier this month, the Texas Tribune and other publications reported that Manchin was heading to Texas for a fundraiser hosted by several major Republican donors, including oil billionaires.
Manchin, along with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, pledged to protect filibuster – a rule, frequently used to empower white supremacists, that requires 60 votes for most Senate bills to pass . This includes vital voting rights legislation passed by the House that is the only way to stop the Republican Party from gutting what’s left of our democracy in the name of the “big lie” of voter fraud.
Due to his particularly powerful position as the deciding vote, Manchin can rewrite major legislation to his liking – effectively dictating the legislative agendas of Congress and the White House.
It looks like Manchin will be successful with the White House infrastructure package as well, and his changes are likely to be more devastating, given the climate emergency we live in.
Manchin not only defends the coal industry and his family’s generational wealth; he’s auctioning off oil and gas executives, who also stand to lose money if the nation moves away from toxic fuels.
Manchin’s political campaigns are fueled by the dirty energy industry. Over the past decade, his election campaigns have received nearly $ 65,000 from the disastrously dishonest lobbyists of oil giant Exxon, its corporate political action committee and the lobbying firms with which Exxon works. A prominent Exxon lobbyist recently bragged about his access to Manchin.
During the 2018 election cycle, his most recent campaign, Manchin received more money from the oil and gas PACS and employees than any other Senate Democrat except North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Manchin was also the first Democratic congressional mining recipient this cycle.
If Biden is to have any legacy, he has to stand up to Manchin, a member of his own party, and work with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring it online. I’m not sure why Biden allows West Virginia to dictate its own presidential policy agenda. But what is crystal clear is that the leader of the United States should be doing a lot more.
Alex Kotch is an investigative reporter and editor at the Center for Media and Democracy, a nationally recognized watchdog that conducts award-winning investigations into the corruption that undermines our democracy, environment and economic prosperity.
This article was produced in partnership with the Center for Media and Democracy