They must not have paid much attention to West Virginia until now. With Chuck Schumer and other progressives desperate to get Joe Biden’s Build Back Better reconciliation spend-o-rama passed before Christmas, we have a full-court press on Manchin at the moment. The Washington Post pitches in with this weird “exposé” on Manchin’s finances that means, well … not much:
In Sen. Joe Manchin III’s hilly West Virginia home county, his family’s business has made millions by taking waste coal from long-abandoned mines and selling it to a power plant that emits air pollution at a higher rate than any other plant in the state.
That enterprise could have taken a hit under a key part of President Biden’s climate agenda, a $150 billion plan to push coal plants toward cleaner energy. One lawmaker, though, played a central role in killing that proposal: Manchin, who has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars annually from the family coal company while using his role as a Democratic swing vote in a 50-50 Senate to dictate Biden’s policies.
When pressed about whether he has a conflict of interest, Manchin bristles. “I have been in a blind trust for 20 years. I have no idea what they’re doing,” the senator told reporters in September, referring to his family’s coal firm. “You got a problem?”
But contrary to his public statements, documents filed by the senator show the blind trust is much too small to account for all his reported earnings from the coal company, as of his latest financial disclosure report, which covers 2020 and was filed in May. …
If Manchin’s coal interests are not in a blind trust, ethics experts said, it calls into question the impartiality of a senator who in October forced Biden to drop the plan in his Build Back Better bill to phase out the same kinds of coal plants that are key to his family company’s profitability.
Thank goodness for ethics experts. How long has Manchin been in the Senate, anyway? Did Chuck Schumer just discover that Manchin’s fortune comes in part from [checks notes] the industry that underpins the economy in West Virginia? The one that provides some measure of economic support for Manchin’s constituents? It seems pretty odd that the Washington Post waited over a decade to do a deep dive into Manchin’s interest in his state’s energy industries.
By the way, Manchin’s not required to be impartial on legislation, nor is any legislator. The act of voting on bills is an explicit act of partiality! In fact, he’s not required to have a blind trust in the first place:
It is legal for Manchin to make millions of dollars from his coal interests even as he chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and legislates on matters affecting the industry. That is because members of Congress are not required to divest their assets to avoid a potential industry conflict.
Senate rules prohibit members from using their position to pass legislation in which “the principal purpose” is to benefit themselves or family members. There is no evidence Manchin has taken action solely to benefit himself or the family company, though critics say that by killing the clean electricity provision in Biden’s agenda, he is helping all coal-related companies — potentially including Enersystems.
“His critics say” does a lot of lifting for the Post’s attempts to smear Manchin on this point. Senators aren’t presidents, and don’t have any authority to enforce laws — the reason blind trusts are traditional for executive office at the state and federal level. If Congress wants its members to divest assets or require blind trusts for “potential industry conflict,” they can jolly well regulate themselves in such a manner. However, since Congress likes to regulate everything, including monetary policy, where would members put their divested assets? And how many Senate Democrats have used a blind trust for all of their holdings? How many House Democrats?
The Post leveled this attack not because Manchin has done something corrupt, bit because Manchin won’t cast his vote for BBB and its budget gimmickry. The Washington Post is not really questioning his “impartiality”; they’re smearing him for not being sufficiently partisan. It’s a pathetic attempt to badger and intimidate Manchin, who must be laughing at the effort to paint him as someone who’s manipulating the system to defend an industry that generates so much economic activity for the voters he serves.