According to a new report from Fox News, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin was caught funneling millions of dollars in federal money to groups connected to his wife Gayle Manchin.
Manchin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has ensured funding for at least three organizations where his wife was employed, as well as a group that indirectly benefited a fourth organization connected to his wife. As a moderate, he has played a prominent role on key Democratic legislative priorities since President Biden’s inauguration.
A representative for Manchin stated that the senator is dedicated to utilizing his position on the Appropriations Committee to advocate for issues affecting West Virginia and highlighted that other legislators are also participating in funding initiatives that support the employers of his wife.
“Senator Manchin’s position on the Senate Appropriations Committee uniquely positions him to fight for causes important to West Virginia,” the spokesperson said in a statement to FOX Business. “The loans and grants specially outlined in this article were all announced with bipartisan support from both state and federal legislators representing West Virginia.”
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One of the larger examples of Manchin’s ability to boost funding for projects involving his wife is the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), a federal-state partnership dedicated to boosting Appalachian region economies. The White House appointed Gayle Manchin in April 2021 to be the federal co-chair of ARC.
While the bipartisan commission has received annual funding of roughly $165 million to $200 million from Congress since 2019, it received a staggering $1 billion in late 2021 under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Sen. Manchin had co-sponsored and championed. After the Senate passed the legislation, Manchin celebrated the billions of dollars that would be sent to West Virginia-based initiatives, but didn’t mention the ARC funding.
“As a result of the positive impact of ARC’s work in the region to support economic and community development, the Commission has received strong bipartisan support from Members of United States Senate and House of Representatives in recent years,” ARC spokesperson Janiene Bohannon said.
In April of 2018, the USDA granted Bethany College, a West Virginia institution where Gayle Manchin held a trustee position from 2012 to 2021, a total of $39.6 million in loans through its Rural Development program. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, the President of Bethany College, stated in a press release that these funds, intended to enhance the college’s facilities, would be a “game-changer” for an institution of its size.
The college specifically acknowledged the efforts of Sen. Manchin, Rep. David McKinley and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who are West Virginia Republicans, stating that they played a vital role in the loan application process and were crucial in obtaining USDA funding for the school.
“As was announced via this April 2018 press release, Bethany College received a significant loan from the [USDA’s] rural development program because it met the criteria stipulated by the USDA,” Bethany College said to FOX business. “The college worked tirelessly with USDA staff for several years to complete the rigorous application process and provide the department with all the information it required to evaluate the college’s eligibility.”
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The college added that it was “customary” to keep state and federal policymakers informed about its efforts to secure the loan, which it said has proven instrumental in maintaining the college’s status as the oldest degree-granting college in the state and a “significant employer” in the region.
“Bethany’s Board of Trustees was – and remains – supportive of the effort to secure the USDA loan,” the college added.
Sen. Manchin, who has for years been an advocate for the USDA Rural Development program, helped author the Inflation Reduction Act in August that appropriated billions of dollars in funding for the program.
In addition, in 2019, USDA awarded Reconnecting McDowell – a rural community development project in West Virginia that Gayle Manchin has worked on in various leadership roles since 2011 – a $250,000 grant. USDA said the grant would be put toward the group’s mobile farmers market program serving 10-15 communities and would return $125,000 in sales to local growers and small producers over three years.
The grant was one of 49 grants USDA awarded under its Farmers Market Promotion Program on Dec. 6, 2019. The program had been reauthorized and expanded through the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act, which Sen. Manchin voted for. After the legislation was passed, Manchin said it would “make a huge difference” in West Virginia.
“Reconnecting McDowell is a shining example of what can be done to reinvigorate a rural community ravaged by decades of economic devastation when a wide array of partners from the public, corporate, nonprofit and foundation worlds, plus the community itself, come together,” Leah Daughtry, the director of Reconnecting McDowell, told FOX Business.
“Reconnecting McDowell received two separate USDA grants unrelated to the apartment building,” Daughtry added, referring to its separate Renaissance Village project. “One was for the mobile farmers market program, and the other was for a farm-to-school initiative, both of which have received glowing reviews by the USDA.”
She said the group has not taken “one penny” in administrative fees from federal agencies.
“The only other federal grant that Reconnecting McDowell was awarded was a $65,000 grant for equipment for the restaurant on the first floor of Renaissance Village,” Daughtry said.
Sen. Manchin and his wife appeared at a Reconnecting McDowell event last June. During the event, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the largest U.S. teachers unions and the organization that started Reconnecting McDowell, announced it had submitted a proposal to the USDA to extend funding for its mobile farmers market program through 2025.
Over the past several years, Sen. Manchin has also announced he had helped direct National Endowment for the Arts grants to the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra (WVSO). The WVSO rents performance space from the Clay Center in Charleston, West Virginia, where Gayle Manchin has served as a director since mid-2018.
In May 2019, Sen. Manchin announced a $20,000 grant for the WVSO; in June 2021, Sen. Manchin announced the WVSO had received a $10,000 grant; and, in May 2022, he announced the WVSO received a $15,000 grant. Moore Capito had also championed the grants in separate releases.
In February 2022, Sen. Manchin announced the WVSO had received a separate $100,000 grant as a result of the American Rescue Plan. At the time, the WVSO said it would use the funds to “save jobs and to fund operations and facilities, health and safety supplies, and marketing and promotional efforts to encourage attendance and participation.”
“Gayle Manchin does not serve on the Board of the Symphony, and the Clay Center is a separate nonprofit,” Joe Tackett, the president of the WVSO, told FOX Business. “We rent the performance space from the Clay Center, as we do many spaces around the state.”