In March 2022, hedgefund billionaire Nelson Peltz hosted a fundraiser for Democratic Senator Joe Manchin at Peltz’s $95 million Palm Beach, Florida mansion. Up for re-election in 2024, Manchin hobnobbed with some of the largest GOP billionaire donors in the country, from Blackstone founder and CEO Steve Schwarzman to Home Depot co-founders Ken Langone and Bernard Marcus.
As co-founder of the investment firm Trian Partners and with a personal net worth of $1.6 billion, Peltz wasn’t the wealthiest person in the room. His fortune pales in comparison to that of Blackstone’s Schwarzman, estimated between $35.5-37.3 billion. He’s one of the highest-paid executives on Wall Street with his take-home pay in 2021 alone at $1.1 billion. Schwartzman, a well-known Donald Trump supporter, was on hand at the $5000-a-plate affair.
Peltz said his and Manchin’s friendship goes back a decade and admits to speaking with the senator weekly, calling him a “rare, elected politician.” After Biden’s Build Back Better plan was stalled by the coal loving Senator, Peltz stated:
“Joe is the most important guy in DC. Maybe the most important guy in America today. I call him every week and say, Joe, your’e doing great. Stay tough. Stay tough, buddy. He’s phenomenal.”
Peltz turned his back on Trump after Jan. 6th, though he previously held a fundraiser for the twice impeached insurrectionist and conman. The same can’t be said for Steve Schwarzman, whose association with Trump has been steeped in controversy.
Particularly after the January 6th insurrection, Schwarzman has been reluctant to criticize Trump publicly. He refused to sign on to a letter with 160 other executives calling for Trump to concede his election loss. In 2017, Schwarzman helped arrange a meeting at Mar-a-Lago between Trump and China’s President Xi. That same year, Blackstone would secure a $20 billion investment deal from Saudi Arabia.
It’s been reported that there was chatter at the fundraiser amongst donors, expressing hope that Manchin will switch parties and run against Joe Biden in 2024. It’s a move Manchin has denied is an option, but it still hasn’t stopped donors like Home Depot’s Ken Langone from singing the West Virginian’s praises. After blocking Biden’s $1.8 trillion social and climate spending bill, Langone proclaimed:
“I’m going to have one of the biggest fundraisers I’ve ever had, for him. He’s special. He’s a great American.”
Manchin has long been criticized for making political decisions that go against what his party stands for. But, to those familiar with Manchin’s career as West Virginia State Senator and Governor of the coal mining state, he’s right on brand.
A corrupt brand. But, a brand nonetheless.
Coal mining activist Paula Jean Swearingen said “Joe Manchin doesn’t need to be in Congress, he needs to be in jail.”
The Manchin grift is a family affair.
State Senator from 1986-96, Manchin got his aerobics instructor daughter, Heather Bresch, an interview with Mylar co-founder, Milan Pusker. The beginning of a long road paved with kickbacks, conflict of interest, and obscene profit. Heather’s rise in the company is indirectly tied to his political career as Governor of WV, and then as a U.S. Senator. The Washington Post put together a timeline.
Two years after Manchin became West Virginia’s Secretary of State in 2000, his daughter was promoted to Director of Government Relations. In 2007, Bresch became COO of Mylar – two years after her father was elected Governor. She then led the acquisition of Merck which would lead to the increase in Epi-Pen prices by more than 10 fold.
In 2008, Manchin was re-elected as Governor. In 2009, Bresch became President of Mylar. 2010 saw Manchin elected to US Senate in a special election, and in 2012, he and his daughter would see both their stars rise. He won his first full term as Senator, and she was promoted to CEO. In 2016 Bresch was elected as Chair – for the 3rd time – of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.
As President of the West Virginia Board of Education, Heather’s mother Gayle, lobbied for West Virginia schools to stock Mylar’s $600 Epi-Pens — the same Epi-Pens for which her daughter was responsible for raising the price, despite a cheaper, generic alternative being available.
Before leaving her position at Mylar, with a $30 million severance, Heather Bresch – in a final blow to West Virginians – oversaw the acquisition of Pfizer’s generic branch, UpJohn, by Mylar. And the newly formed company, Viatris, announced plans to close the flagship Morgantown, West Virginia plant – effective in July of 2021 – moving production overseas and costing the state thousands of jobs and revenue.
During Manchin’s initial Senate bid in 2010, he would come under investigation for decisions made he made while Governor —namely no-bid government contracts, including one of over $800,000 to a real estate company owned by Joe Puccio, Manchin’s Chief-of-Staff.
In 2006, Puccio was ordered by Governor Manchin to get electric provider Mon Power to lobby the West Virginia Public Service Commission to raise electricity rates from $27.25 per megawatt-hour to $34.25. He did lobby them, and the PSC followed through with his wishes, increasing Mon Power’s customer energy bills by 3o% and netting Manchin $4.5M through his company Enersystems. The contract was extended from the end date of 2028 – to 2036. Though the assets are in a blind trust, Manchin gets approximately half a million dollars a year from the deal.
Did I mention Manchin’s son, Joe Manchin IV, is the head of Enersystems?
FBI and IRS probes allege tax evasion, grand larceny, and campaign finance violations. Manchin wasn’t personally investigated, but those in and around his administration were. The US Attorney overseeing the investigation was Boothe Goodwin, a cousin of Manchin’s legal counsel at the time. Manchin appointed Boothe to the Senate seat left vacant after the death of Senator Robert Boyd. When Manchin won that seat, Boothe Goodwin ran the super PAC created to help his re-election bid for a full Senate term.
Manchin is the biggest recipient of oil and gas money in Congress. An Exxon Mobile lobbyist said they speak to Manchin every week. In ’94, Manchin was State Chair of ALEC – a Koch-backed, pro-fossil fuel group, called out for spreading climate disinformation today.
Coal makes up 20% of the country’s power, but almost 100% of West Virginia’s, regardless of how dirty, inefficient and costly. Small businesses and consumers have seen electric bills as high as $1000 a month. In a state with high levels of poverty, constituents like Sandra Blankenship are starting to voice their frustration.
“I’m gonna campaign as hard as I can to make sure Joe Manchin is not elected.”
Courting billionaire donors, using his position to enrich himself and his family, screwing over his constituents – Senator Joe Manchin is behaving more like a Republican in Dem clothing.
Perhaps Senator King Coal should change his name, from Joe Manchin – to Joe Mansion.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
Original reporting by Amber Phillips at The Washington Post.