Former Joe Manchin aides get top lobbying clients as ex-boss fights Biden’s agenda

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) closes an elevator door after a Democratic political lunch at the United States Capitol in Washington, the United States, December 16, 2021.

Élisabeth Frantz | Reuters

Former aides to Sen. Joe Manchin, who are now lobbyists, are tagging big, influential clients as their ex-boss battles President Biden’s agenda.

Three of Manchin’s former advisers recently signed up to lobby for at least five new clients: oil and gas giant Hess, media juggernaut Comcast, a nonprofit founded by a former Mike campaign manager Bloomberg, a group linked to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and an organization partially funded by crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. The billionaire gave $ 5 million to a pro-Biden political action committee in the 2020 election.

Former assistants – including former Manchin chiefs of staff – have signed up to lobby for some of these new clients from October, while signing up for others as recently as December. , according to disclosure reports reviewed by CNBC.

The lobbying registrations took place as Manchin’s own influence grew. Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, opposed key elements of President Joe Biden’s proposals during the October-December period. Several of the issues listed on the lobbying disclosure forms relate to the Democratic Party’s agenda, such as the child tax credit, income tax, and better broadband access. The lobbyists’ registration reports do not specify whether these representatives are committed for or against the various proposals.

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In December, Manchin said he would not vote for Biden’s $ 1.75 trillion climate policy and social spending plan, known as “Build Back Better.” Manchin’s vote is essential for Democrats in a 50-50 Senate. The West Virginia lawmaker has since said he has not had any discussions with Major Democrats over the plan review.

Several of the lobbyists linked to Manchin have already engaged people on Capitol Hill on behalf of powerful players in industries such as coal, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, tobacco and finance.

A Comcast spokeswoman declined to comment. Lobbyists and representatives of new clients did not return requests for comment.

Comcast and Hess

Comcast has hired Larry Puccio, who considers himself a friend of Manchin, to lobby what is described on the registration form as “telecommunications – broadband deployment and adoption.” Puccio registered to lobby for Comcast in late November and was Manchin’s chief of staff when he was governor of West Virginia.

Biden recently signed a $ 1,000 billion infrastructure bill that includes $ 550 billion in new money for transportation, broadband and utilities.

In a 2020 interview with a local West Virginia media outlet, Puccio, a longtime lobbyist, discussed his friendship with Manchin. “Joe and I are very close. I think of Joe’s world. Hope you print it. I’ve always supported Joe Manchin. Joe knows me and I know Joe,” Puccio said at the time.

Hess recently hired Patrick Hayes, who was Manchin’s chief of staff until 2019. Hayes registered to lobby for the oil and gas giant in December. It focuses on Global Low Tax Intangible Income, or GILTI, according to the registration form. The changes to GILTI are part of the House Build Back Better bill that has stalled in the Senate due to Manchin’s opposition.

Manchin is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and has benefited from his ties to the coal industry. He is also opposed to the main climate provisions of the Build Back Better bill.

Tusk Philanthropies and Humanity Forward

Puccio and Hayes also chose two influential nonprofits as new clients.

Tusk Philanthropies, is a 501 (c) (4) founded by former Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk, lists Hayes as one of their new Kountoupes company lobbyists Denham Carr & Reid. The lobbying firm said Hayes and his colleagues signed up to lobby for Tusk Philanthropies in October with a focus on “initiatives related to ending child hunger, including the provision of Community eligibility “.

Records show that Tusk Philanthropies has hired lobbyists in the past to try to defend their priorities. The group’s website lists tackling child hunger as one of its goals. The site says the group has been “able to help pass laws in Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Arizona, California, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Washington State “.

Former New York presidential candidate and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang started a nonprofit called Humanity Forward after dropping out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The 501 (c) (4) recently hired Puccio to focus on the child tax credit, according to the registration form. Puccio signed up to lobby for the Yang-backed group in early December.

The expansion of the child tax credit was a major feature of Biden’s social spending proposal which has since stalled in large part due to Manchin’s opposition.

The group’s website says the organization has been actively working to expand the provision as it is about to expire.

Humanity Forward has worked with partner organizations and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to adopt the expanded monthly child tax credit payments under the American Rescue Plan Act and is actively advancing the efforts. to prevent its expiration in December 2021, ”the website said.

Guarding against pandemics

A nonprofit that says it supports Biden’s proposal to spend $ 30 billion to protect the United States from future pandemics has hired lobbyist Jonathan Kott, who served as Manchin’s senior advisor and communications director for seven years. Kott registered to lobby Guarding Against Pandemics in November over what the form said to be “issues with funding for pandemic preparedness.”

The 501 (c) (4) website says the group is “pushing Congress to include a $ 30 billion investment in the Democrats’ next budget reconciliation bill – less than 1% of the total cost of the bill. law – to prepare for the next pandemic. “

The website also says the group is partially funded by Sam Bankman-Fried, who has a net worth of $ 26 billion, according to Forbes. He is the founder and CEO of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange.

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, CNBC’s parent company.

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