Joe Manchin’s ties to the oil and gas industry they are no secret. The West Virginia senator is one of the top recipients of donations from fossil fuel companies in Congress and still has a substantial stake in the coal brokerage firm he co-founded and is now owned by his son.
But those connections are being re-examined after announcing on Friday that his chief of staff, Lance West, is leaving his office to take up a top lobbying position at the American Petroleum Institute, a group representing oil and gas interests.
“Lance is joining API at a critical time for our industry,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers in a statement reported by Axios.
“His position on Capitol Hill has placed him at the center of some of our nation’s more important legislative debates, and his deep relationships on both sides of the altar will be a huge asset to our organization and the industry we serve,” the statement added.
The move by one of Mr. Manchin’s closest advisers was seen as further evidence of the oil and gas industry’s influence on Congress.
The Washington Post he described it as “[m]there is evidence of the “revolving door” phenomenon on the Capitol” – a reference to the common practice of lobby groups employing the staff of politicians they had previously lobbied, and vice versa.
According to data collected by OpenSecrets, over 60 a percentage of oil and gas lobbyists working in Washington previously worked in some capacity for the federal government.
Last year the door opened the other way when Mr. Manchin hired natural gas industry lobbyist CJ Osman of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America to work on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, from which he is a chair.
As a former governor and current senator of the Republic of Poland second largest coal-producing country, Mr Manchin has always defended his support for the oil and gas industry as vital to the interests of his constituents.
But he was criticized by within his own party for his ties to industry and repeatedly blocking legislation designed to reduce the United States’ dependence on fossil fuels to reduce the impact of climate change.
Mr. Manchin was the last Democrat to oppose the landmark Climate and energy package worth $369 billion last yearand joined his colleagues only after securing several significant concessions to the fossil fuel industry.
“We must stop pretending that there is only one way to fight global climate change or achieve American energy independence,” Manchin said in a statement announcing the deal, which was signed last July.
“As a superpower in the world, it’s important that we don’t undermine our superpower status by removing reliable and affordable energy from fossil fuels before new technologies are ready to reliably carry that burden,” he added.
During these negotiations, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders accused Mr. Manchin of sabotaging climate change legislation.
“They’re not Democrats. This is not the president. This is the future of the planet. So when Manchin sabotages climate change, it’s for future generations,” Sanders said ABC.
“What is happening now in the West, all over the world, we are seeing much increased, more and more heatwaves, more droughts, more floods. It is an existential threat to humanity,” he added.
There is no suggestion that Mr. Manchin has broken any laws regarding his position in the Senate on supporting fossil fuel companies.
API, a powerful lobbying group for the oil and gas industry that includes Shell, Exxon, Chevron and BP, has been accused of misleading the public about the climate. The group is also the subject of several lawsuits related to this alleged fraud, including from the State of Minnesota.
lawsuit accused API about being “a member of at least five organizations that have promoted misinformation about fossil fuel-based products among consumers.”
Senator Manchin’s office and API did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.