While Democrats Try to Woo Manchin, He’s Headed to Billionaire-Hosted Fundraiser

Amid a new push by Democrats to revive talks with conservatives in their party on President Joe Biden’s social, economic and climate agenda, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) is headed to a fundraiser at a billionaire’s house in California this weekend, hosted by the right-leaning political group No Labels.

As uncovered by The Intercept, Manchin will be attending a private event this Saturday in the Los Angeles home of Howard Marks, co-founder of investment fund Oaktree Capital Management with a net worth of about $2.2 billion. There, Manchin will likely rub shoulders with Michael Milken, a Donald-Trump pardoned investor and financier with a net worth of $3.8 billion, according to Forbes.

No Labels, the group that is hosting the event, is infamous among progressive groups for backing politicians with supposedly “sensible” politics that “have an uncanny likelihood of benefiting one particular element of our nation’s political economy: the superrich, or more precisely, the finance industry,” as Clio Chang wrote for The Intercept in 2018.

According to investigative reports, No Labels played at least a small role in getting last year’s Build Back Better Act gutted and killed. At one point last year, reporters uncovered that the group appeared to have offered to donate to conservative Democrats in the House to present a united front against the rest of the Democratic party.

In June of 2021, a leaked call showed that Manchin had been in at least one meeting with the group and their billionaire allies about maintaining the filibuster. The West Virginia lawmaker spent much of the rest of the year coming up with excuse after excuse to justify his opposition to nearly every provision in the bill — only for it to come out later that Manchin had likely decided early on in the months-long negotiations that he was never going to support the bill, regardless of how many adjustments Democrats made to accommodate him, according to accounts from Washington insiders and colleagues.

During the negotiations, Manchin fraternized with coal industry executives and received donations from conservative billionaires who had never donated to Democrats before. His PAC raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds from major corporations, including Lockheed Martin, Wells Fargo and fossil gas company CNX Resources.

In the months since Manchin killed the Build Back Better Act, progressives and Democrats have been trying to revive talks on the bill — or at least its crucial provisions to combat the climate crisis, as continued emissions are locking in increasingly dangerous levels of global warming.

Although the coal baron met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on energy and climate reforms this week, it’s unlikely that he will support any legislation that would meaningfully draw down the use of fossil fuels. Last month, he killed the nomination of climate champion Sarah Bloom Raskin to the Federal Reserve Board, saying that she wasn’t a supporter of the “all-of-the-above” style of energy policy that is killing any prospects of a livable climate.

Meanwhile, Manchin also complained this week about the erosion of the Voting Rights Act, which, in theory, bars racial discrimination in elections. But he’s the one who spent last year refusing to change the filibuster to pass Democrats’ voting rights bill; in fact, the lawmaker even eventually opposed his own “compromise” voting rights bill, which he tried and failed to sell to Republicans.