The Manchin Dilemma

There is ample reason to detest Joe Manchin: in a closely divided Senate, he has single-handedly defeated much of Biden’s agenda–including the President’s efforts to combat climate change and voter suppression.

Manchin has been a critical and  mostly reliable vote for Biden’s judicial nominations, but a stubborn obstacle to passage of several measures that are absolutely central to the Democratic agenda, and popular with voters.

What makes his obdurate opposition worse is that it clearly isn’t motivated by principle. If his consistent obstruction was the result of philosophical conviction–part and parcel of a considered political ideology, no matter how wrongheaded–it would still be incredibly frustrating, but the anger would be different.

What infuriates policy wonks and party strategists alike is recognition that , with Manchin, it’s all about the money. (He evidently raised his children with the same self-serving values; his daughter’s fingerprints were all over the Epi-Pen scandal.)

As the New York Times reported,  the Grant Town power plant is

the link between the coal industry and the personal finances of Joe Manchin III, the Democrat who rose through state politics to reach the United States Senate, where, through the vagaries of electoral politics, he is now the single most important figure shaping the nation’s energy and climate policy.

Mr. Manchin’s ties to the Grant Town plant date to 1987, when he had just been elected to the West Virginia Senate, a part-time job with base pay of $6,500. His family’s carpet business was struggling.

When developers approached Manchin, he helped them clear what the Times calls “bureaucratic hurdles.” He then went into business with them.

Mr. Manchin supplied a type of low-grade coal mixed with rock and clay known as “gob” that is typically cast aside as junk by mining companies but can be burned to produce electricity. In addition, he arranged to receive a slice of the revenue from electricity generated by the plant — electric bills paid by his constituents.

The deal inked decades ago has made Mr. Manchin, now 74, a rich man.

If the story stopped there, it would be troubling enough, but it doesn’t.

While the fact that Mr. Manchin owns a coal business is well-known, an examination by The New York Times offers a more detailed portrait of the degree to which Mr. Manchin’s business has been interwoven with his official actions. He created his business while a state lawmaker in anticipation of the Grant Town plant, which has been the sole customer for his gob for the past 20 years, according to federal data. At key moments over the years, Mr. Manchin used his political influence to benefit the plant. He urged a state official to approve its air pollution permit, pushed fellow lawmakers to support a tax credit that helped the plant, and worked behind the scenes to facilitate a rate increase that drove up revenue for the plant — and electricity costs for West Virginians.

Records show that several energy companies have held ownership stakes in the power plant, major corporations with interests far beyond West Virginia. At various points, those corporations have sought to influence the Senate, including legislation before committees on which Mr. Manchin sat, creating what ethics experts describe as a conflict of interest.

Now that he has found himself in a position to cast pivotal votes in an evenly divided Senate, Manchin hasn’t hesitated to block legislation intended to speed the country’s transition to clean energy.  When the war in Ukraine led to calls to boycott Russian gas,  Manchin joined Republicans who are agitating for production of more American gas and oil to fill the gap.

Manchin’s protection of the Grant Town plant can’t be defended by claiming it helps West Virginia residents, either. As the Times article notes, while the power plant continues to pay Manchin handsome dividends, “it has harmed West Virginians economically, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in excess electricity fees. That’s because gob is a less efficient power source than regular coal.”

The bulk of Manchin’s income since entering the Senate has come from one company: Enersystems, Inc., which he founded with his brother Roch Manchin in 1988, the year before the Grant Town plant got a permit from the state of West Virginia.

Enersystems Inc. is now run by Mr. Manchin’s son, Joseph Manchin IV. In 2020, it paid Mr. Manchin $491,949, according to his filings, almost three times his salary as a United States senator. From 2010 through 2020, Mr. Manchin reported a total of $5.6 million from the company.

Manchin will remain in a position to defy science and undermine his President and his party so long as the Senate remains equally divided. Meanwhile, the GOP is pulling out all the stops to keep Democrats from voting and their votes from being accurately counted.


  1. And he likes to “Hint” that he could move across the isle if pushed too much. It would be a short walk to the R side. He is 99% there already. He only has to move his chair.

  2. shameful! The answer is to take control of the Senate – even when the ‘talking heads’ think it is not possible. Then with Dems winning in Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania – while holding our current seats – Sen. Manchin ceases to be a factor. I suggest we stay calm and send money and VOTE!

  3. Ah yes, a “self-made man” under the auspices of American Capitalism. I am sure there is plenty more to the story, but at this point in his 74 years, he can just smile a wave from the back of his yacht. I’ll retire from politics since the NYT’s got me. LOL

    This story is the backdrop of most US senators or congress members. If it’s not insider trading, it’s the business deals by lobbyists and PR machines cooked up on their behalf.

    If they do the bidding of their oligarchs well, they will be elevated within the system of American capitalism.

    Do you honestly think their greed is any different regardless of their political stripes?

    Naive doesn’t begin to describe the “informed” American voter. LOL

    Turn off your TV news and quit reading the newspapers. You’d be better informed if not paying attention than watching and reading thinking you know better. 😉

  4. Except for the last paragraph, Todd actually sums it up pretty well. What’s so terribly sad is that West Virginians voted overwhelmingly for Trump – TWICE. So, how is it they also voted for a DEMOCRAT for the U.S. Senate? Well, it’s obvious that Manchin now defines the term DINO.

    I prefer a more complex descriptive word for guys like Manchin: CORRUPTTOTHEBONE.

  5. Manchin is a Trump Democrat; staying in the game of politics for money, power and control. This puts him in the same class as Putin; both are in control using scorched earth tactics to roll over anyone and anything in their way; our government is at the mercy of Manchin who has mercy for no one. The world is currently at the mercy of Putin who has no mercy for his victims as he is succeeding in his bid to rebuild the Soviet Union. Trump, McConnell, Manchin and others here are waiting to serve Putin and his nuclear threats to gain money, power and control. We can thank the Republican party for giving away their own power to Trump in 2015; not even electing Democrats to the majority has taken back control of our government. We are still not fully trusted by our allies of many years. Manchin’s support is upheld by Trump’s Republicans; as patmcc stated he is already 99% across the aisle, no need to move his chair.

    Ukraine President Zelenskyy said it all in his final statement to the UN; if they can’t uphold their own rules, they should be disbanded. Trump’s Republicans have not upheld the foundation of their own party; but as long as they have Manchin on their side, no need to change the rules. We are going to lose these mid-term elections and hand the White House over to Trump to support White Nationalism and Putin’s dictatorship will be supported by this government. Manchin’s dangerous control is widespread far beyond our Senate.

  6. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd was (in)famous for steering federal money to build almost useless interstates in W Va. and receiving huge contributions from the construction companies. Now Manchin. Maybe the state’s license plates should read Self Interest First.

  7. Manchin will probably continue to be re-elected in WVA/ Why? Because voters don’t care that he rips them off. They see a guy who was middle class who became a big success. He must be really smart, if he can take advantage of so many people so easily. Just thank God that he is charisma free or he might be President.

  8. Well Peggy dont get your hopes up, Biden is charisma free and he is president.
    Supposedly Pelosi also bought several different companies right before contracts were given out.
    Way too tempting to be in Congress and not favor your own business dealings.
    The NY Times has the laptop Scandal as real? Hmmm

  9. Manchin has, unfortunately, a very credible way about him that masks his predatory nature. He lives extremely well at the expense of others. Is it to his credit that he lives very well at the expense of both Democrats and Republicans? I don’t see that as true.

    Predators are that by nature. He can’t stop when he has enough. He had enough many millions ago but he didn’t stop then.

    Social animals live communally because that’s the optimum survival strategy for them. Herd size is optimized for feeding and protection and the creation and raising of the young to independence.

    Some herd outliers though test the limits of living among but also at the expense of the herd.

  10. The herd is thinned long before they get to that level. If they happen to sneak through past the local political parties, which doesn’t happen often, they can’t raise any money at the federal level and are washed out by the system.

    It’s the system that is corrupted by the oligarchy. Remember, they spend most of their day fundraising for the political party. They accomplish nothing if they can’t raise the money because the party chews them up and spits them out.

    They serve the oligarchy or else. You’re either serving willingly or naively serving. Either way, you serve or find yourself on your own.

    Ask Ralph Nader how the marginalization process works. 😉

  11. I’ve been absent for a bit, due to a medical issue.
    However, Manchin is among the maggots in government, IMHO!

  12. Is it not better to have a Democrat in position instead of a Republican? Are we seeking perfection and purity? Afterall,no candidate is perfect.

    Joe Manchin perfectly encapsulates the current Democratic Party. Our politicians of both parties
    created the milieu for the EpiPen scandal. What has since been done to prevent such corporate behavior since there has been a Democratic Party majority?

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