Emails appear to show that Sen. Joe Manchin’s wife, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), committed an ethics violation pledge by advising a group with ties to her senator husband’s campaign.
According to the emails, in October 2021, Gayle Manchin advised Coalfield Development, a nonprofit, on a $62.8 million grant from the American Rescue Plan that ultimately resulted in millions of dollars going to an organization headed by the treasurer of her husband’s campaign committee and leadership PAC.
Manchin signed an ethics pledge in April 2021 that required her to step down from advisory boards like this to “avoid any actual or apparent conflicts of interest.”
The Appalachian Climate Technology Now (ACT NOW), a coalition for Coalfield Development was one of twenty-one grantees hoping to secure $100 mil from Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
From the $63 million ultimately awarded to Coalfield Development’s alliance, $13 million went to the Charleston Area Alliance, led by the treasurer, Jack Rossi, of Joe Manchin’s administration.
Brandon Dennison, CEO of Coalfield Development, emailed Gayle Manchin a grant application for the organization’s Build Back Better program on October 19, 2021, citing a phone conversation in which the two discussed the applications.
Dennison also noted that the application process is competitive, but that he was “looking forward to continued collaboration” with the ARC.
According to a statement released by the ARC, Gayle Manchin doesn’t have any monetary interest in Coalfield Development, nor in the ACT Now Coalition. It said while Manchin encouraged organizations to apply for Biden’s grants, the ARC emphasized that she had nothing to do with approving any applications.
Before being confirmed for her ARC position, Gayle Manchin served on the board of Reconnecting McDowell, a partner of Coalfield Development. However, as of today, April 13, 2023, Manchin is still listed on the Reconnecting McDowell website as a partner.
The ARC stated categorically that Gayle Manchin didn’t gain financially with Reconnecting McDowell.
Joe Manchin sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and is widely regarded as the Senate’s most influential swing vote. The Senator is in charge of both the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate.