Manchin and Sinema find financial support from GOP donors

WASHINGTON – Over the summer, as he worked to cut President Biden’s national agenda, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III visited an $ 18 million mansion in Dallas for a fundraiser that attracted Republican donors and businesses that applauded his efforts. .

In September, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who along with Mr. Manchin has been a major obstacle to the White House’s efforts to pass its social and climate policy package, stopped by the same house to collect funds from a similar group of donors for its campaign funds.

Even though Ms Sinema and Mr Manchin, both Democrats, have drawn fire from the left for their efforts to scale down and reshape Mr Biden’s proposals, they have garnered growing financial support from donors and leaders. conservative-leaning enterprise in a vivid demonstration of how party affiliation can turn out to be secondary to vested interests and ideological motives when the stakes are high enough.

Ms. Sinema is gaining more financial support from Wall Street and right-wing constituencies largely for her opposition to increasing personal and corporate tax rates. Mr Manchin has attracted new Republican-leaning donors as he fought much of his own party to reduce the size of Mr Biden’s legislation and limit new components of social protection.

It is not uncommon for well-heeled political activists and business interests to spread a handful of money across party lines. Republican Representative Liz Cheney from Wyoming this year collected a handful of checks from major Democratic donors as she opposed her party leadership’s defense of former President Donald J. Trump.

But the flow of money to Ms Sinema and Mr Manchin’s campaigns outside normal democratic channels stands out because many donors have little history with them. The financial support is also notable for its close connection to its power over a single bill, the fate of which continues to depend largely on the two senators, as their party cannot afford to lose any of their votes in the Senate.

Their influence has been profound. The domestic policy bill, which would expand the social safety net and climate change efforts, started at $ 3.5 trillion and has been cut – mostly at Mr Manchin’s insistence – to around 2,000 billion dollars; it could decrease as the Senate resumes the version adopted by the House on Friday. Originally, the new spending measures were to be funded primarily by increases in tax rates for the rich and for businesses – a component of the plan that had to be significantly rewritten due to Ms. Sinema’s opposition.

This month, billionaire Wall Street investor Kenneth G. Langone, a longtime Republican megadonator who has never contributed to Mr Manchin, effusively congratulated him for showing “grit and courage. “And promised to start” one of the biggest fundraisers I have ever had for him.

In a statement to the New York Times, Mr. Langone, who has given an overwhelming majority of his millions of dollars in federal political donations to Republicans, said, “My political contributions have always been in favor of candidates who are willing to stand up. in principle, even if it means defying their own party or the press.

Stanley S. Hubbard, a billionaire Republican donor, wrote his first check to Ms Sinema in September and said he was considering the same for Mr Manchin because of their efforts to cut the veils of the Democrats’ agenda. “They are two good people – Manchin and Sinema – and I think we need more Democratic Party members,” he said.

Money also poured in for Mr Manchin and Ms Sinema from political action committees and donors linked to the financial and pharmaceutical industries, who opposed proposals originally included in the domestic policy bill that lawmakers helped. to cut, including Medicare changes and tax rate increases.

John LaBombard, spokesperson for Ms Sinema, rejected any suggestion that campaign money would be factored into his approach to policymaking. She was one of the chief negotiators of the bipartisan infrastructure deal Mr Biden signed last week, and during her tenure in the Senate, she positioned herself as an ideologically flexible centrist ready to thwart her party representing a purple state.

“Senator Sinema makes decisions based on one consideration: what is best for Arizona,” said Mr. LaBombard.

Mr Manchin’s office did not respond to requests for comment. But he has long expressed his fear that the legislation, if not brought down to the level he seeks, would worsen the budget deficit and fuel inflation.

Lawmakers share a campaign finance consultant, who helped organize fundraisers across Texas for the two lawmakers who raised money from Republican donors, as well as a fundraiser for Ms Sinema in Washington at the end of September with commercial pressure groups opposing the domestic policy bill.

Nelson Peltz, a billionaire investor who brought a group of high-profile Republican business leaders to lunch with Mr Manchin in Washington a few months ago, said the senator “understands you can’t spend, spend , spend and feel that there is no recourse for it. “

Mr Peltz, who donated to Mr Manchin in 2017, did not give to Ms Sinema, but clarified that she had requested a meeting, which will take place in a few weeks.

Individual donors like Mr Peltz, who over the years has given almost three times as much to Republicans as to Democrats at the federal level, are offering the two Democratic senators a way to replenish their campaign coffers – both are ready to be re-elected. in 2024 – at a time when they are unlikely to receive an enthusiastic reception from some more mainstream Democratic donors.

Mr Manchin has long been to the right of his party on critical issues like abortion rights and fossil fuels, while Ms Sinema began her political career as a liberal activist before moving to the center. A Wall Street executive joked that in her industry Ms Sinema – who as a young politician once likened political donations to “corruption” – was now called “Saint Sinema” for opposing the Most of the taxes proposed by Mr. Biden on the rich. (However, she has backed a 15% minimum corporate tax and other revenue-raising measures that will help pay for Mr. Biden’s legislative expenses.)

Progressives are less amused and have accused the two senators of undermining their party’s agenda in the name of special interests.

Wealthy liberals recently began to lay the groundwork for a main challenge for Ms Sinema in 2024, and liberal group Demand Progress wrote in a petition that “a small group of right-wing Democrats backed by corporate money, including Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, are trying to destroy ”Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda.

This year, Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema received donations from major Republican donors who had never given them before, including James A. Haslam III, owner of the Cleveland Browns football team, and the Dallas real estate developer. Harlan Crow, who is close to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Several other prominent Republican donors who have backed Mr. Trump have also written their very first checks to Mr. Manchin in recent months. Among them are Oklahoma oil and gas billionaire Harold Hamm, who pushed the former president to deregulate the energy sector; Dallas-based lobbyist and investor Roy W. Bailey, who helped lead fundraising for Mr. Trump’s nomination and a pro-Trump nonprofit group; and banker Andrew Beal, who donated a total of $ 3 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Trump from 2018 until last year.

Executives at Goldman Sachs, including company chairman John Waldron, have teamed up to donate tens of thousands of dollars to Ms Sinema in the spring and summer. In July, she attended a welcome meeting at the offices of the Blackstone Group, headed by a major Republican donor; some Blackstone employees donated around the same time. A handful of employees at investment firm Apollo Global Management, including Marc J. Rowan, chief executive and major donor to predominantly Republican candidates and causes, donated to Ms Sinema in late September after the firm sent a appeal to industry contacts seeking donations for it.

Credit…Business Wire, via Associated Press

G. Brint Ryan, the Republican donor who organized the fundraisers in Dallas for Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, said senators were “out of touch with their party, but I tend to think they’re right. . “

Mr. Ryan had never donated to Ms. Sinema and had not organized a fundraiser before this year, although he donated $ 1,000 to Mr. Manchin’s re-election campaign in 2018 .

Mr Ryan’s tax consultancy website says he is working to “free our clients from the burden of being overtaxed.”

Company lobbyists have been following the debate in Congress over the tax implications of the domestic policy bill, according to the disclosure documents. Mr Ryan, who said in an email that the measure “would worsen a bad tax code and kill economic growth,” has ties to Republicans who have been instrumental in opposing it.

He advised Mr. Trump on tax policy during his presidential campaign in 2016. One of the partners in Mr. Ryan’s tax consultancy is Jeff Miller, a corporate lobbyist and close political advisor to Representative Kevin McCarthy of California , the Republican House leader.

Mr. Miller, who is a leading Republican fundraiser, helped lead Mr. Ryan’s team to people who could help plan fundraisers for Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin. And Mr. Miller’s wife donated to Ms. Sinema’s campaign.

In the days surrounding fundraising at his home, Mr. Ryan, his employees, his company’s political action committee, and a relative’s law firm combined to donate nearly 80 $ 000 to Ms. Sinema’s campaign and over $ 115,000 to Mr. Manchin’s.

The $ 2.6 million Ms. Sinema’s campaign raised in the first nine months of this year was two and a half times the amount she raised in the same period last year, while the 3 , $ 3 million raised by Mr. Manchin’s campaign was more than 14 times as much as his run until the end of September last year.

Overall, Ms. Sinema’s campaign raised around $ 6.1 million in donations between early 2019 and late September, and she had $ 4.5 million in the bank with three years before she faced the Arizona voters. Mr. Manchin’s campaign raised around $ 3.8 million and had $ 5.4 million available.

Kenneth P. Vogel reported from Washington, and Kate kelly from New York. Jonathan weisman contributed reports.

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