According to leaked comments from an ExxonMobil
senior lobbyist, the oil
company has regular access to Sen. Joe Manchin
(D-WVa.) and his staff.
ExxonMobil's senior director of federal relations in Washington
, Keith McCoy, delivered the remarks.
“I talk to Joe Manchin’s office every week; he is the kingmaker, and he isn’t afraid to stake his claim early and completely change the debate,” McCoy explained.
On Wednesday, Channel 4 News
in the United Kingdom
aired a video of McCoy's remarks, which were recorded by Unearthed, Greenpeace
UK's investigative arm, which posed as headhunters looking to hire a lobbyist for one of their clients.
It's not surprising that McCoy identified Manchin as the key to their efforts; he's the chairman of the Senate
Committee on Energy
and Natural Resources and will be central to any climate change
legislation passed during President Joe Biden
Furthermore, with the Senate's slimmest of majorities, the White House
and other Democrats
have had to bend over backwards to keep Manchin happy and on board, despite the fact that he is more conservative than many of his caucus members.
ExxonMobil's political action committee has given Manchin $12,500 since the 2012 election
It's unclear whether McCoy was being completely honest about his access to Manchin's office, or if he was exaggerating in order to land a new client. Manchin's office declined to comment for this article.
Stardia reached out to a dozen environmental organizations, including those in Manchin's home state, to see if they have the same level of access. The results were mixed. Some said they talked to Manchin's office frequently and felt like the senator was incredibly accessible, while others said they had nowhere near the ability to talk to the office
that ExxonMobil claims to have.
Perry Bryant, founder of the West Virginia
Climate Alliance, said Manchin and his staff were "very accessible," citing a 40-minute Zoom
meeting with Manchin this spring and a series of meetings with members of his committee and personal staff.
Leah Barbor, the West Virginia field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force
, said her parent advocates "speak regularly" to Manchin and his staff, as well as national groups such as the League of Conservation Voters
and the Environmental Defense Fund.
“They have an open-door policy and are open to discussing a wide range of issues,” said Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at EDF.
The West Virginia Citizens Climate Lobby's state coordinator, Jim Probst, said the group has a "pretty good relationship with Manchin's office and email frequently with staff," but he would "make the distinction between access and influence."
The Sierra Club of West Virginia, Greenpeace USA, 350.org, the Sunrise Movement
, and the Center for Biological Diversity
, on the other hand, all stated that they did not regularly communicate with Manchin's office.
“We frequently write and call Manchin’s offices, but we at MOVCA and Sierra Club WV don’t have that kind of regular access to Manchin or his staff,” said Eric Engle, co-chairman of the Sierra Club of West Virginia executive committee and chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action (MOVCA).
“We do not speak with Manchin’s office every week. This is nonsense. Especially with unprecedented and fatal heat waves
across the country, it is outrageous that our politicians
are collaborating with the very people
responsible for the extreme weather
instead of looking out for the American people,” said Sunrise Communications Director Ellen Sciales.
The senator is currently one of the leaders of a bipartisan infrastructure
package that largely excludes major climate change measures, including only a fraction of the funding requested by Biden to help boost electric vehicles.
The ExxonMobil revelations, according to Sciales, should make the White House reconsider its deference to Manchin.
“Biden, the senators you’re negotiating with are clearly beholden to fossil fuels
. Is this why you reached a compromise on infrastructure? Is this why you’re watering down your climate plan?” she asked.