Members of Congress are required to file personal financial disclosures every year by May 15, though many request and are granted extensions to mid-August.
Disclosures from Manchin and other members of West Virginia’s four-member delegation reviewed by States Newsroom showed investments in some individual corporate stocks and fundraising efforts by U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney to pay legal bills.
Manchin’s stake in Enersystems, Inc., a coal mining operation run by his son, Joseph Manchin IV, represents the most valuable asset in his portfolio. The senator reported owning non-public stock worth between $1 million and $5 million.
Enersystems also paid Manchin $476,000, the largest source of private income he reported for 2022.
Manchin’s position leading the influential Senate Energy Committee makes his coal industry ties “a classic case study for a conflict of interest in Congress,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, a congressional ethics expert with the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight
“It’s a very clear and unambiguous conflict of interest,” Hedtler-Gaudette said in an interview. “He’s a very powerful member of Congress. He’s the chair of a committee, which makes him even more powerful, and he has the ability to impact specifically the industry that he happens to be heavily invested in personally.”
A spokesperson for Manchin noted the senator’s compliance with legal standards.
“Throughout the entirety of Senator Manchin’s public service career, he has always been in full compliance with Senate ethics and financial disclosure rules,” a Manchin spokesperson said in an email.
Throughout his Senate career, Manchin has been accused by progressives in his own party of pursuing legislation favorable to the coal industry and other fossil fuel sectors.
He announced in late 2021 that he would not support a $2 trillion climate and social policy proposal Democrats hoped to pass along party lines. In a chamber that was then evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, his opposition doomed the bill.
Manchin has said that he is representing the interests of his constituents in a state where the coal industry supplies many jobs and drives the economy.
But Manchin’s financial interest in a coal company makes it difficult to determine where his interests end and his constituents’ begin, Hedlter-Gaudette said. A solution to a perceived conflict of interest is for the lawmaker to divest, he said.
“The easy way for him to resolve that … is to clear out his own personal financial portfolio of any conflicting assets,” Hedtler-Gaudette said. “That way he can make the claim, no matter what he does to advance the coal industry in terms of policy, he can say, ‘I’m just representing my state, and it doesn’t have anything to do with my own personal financial interests.’”
“A lot of times when we’re talking about matters of potential corruption or conflict of interest, it doesn’t even have to be the real thing,” he added. “It’s just the appearance of it.”
Manchin hails from a state that voted for former President Donald Trump by nearly 40 points over Joe Biden in the 2020 election and is considered the most conservative member of the Senate Democratic caucus. He tends to often side with Republicans on issues beyond climate and energy, including gun regulations, government spending, abortion and some nominees.
He has also occasionally been willing to work with his own party leaders on climate policy. Six months after tanking Democrats’ massive climate proposal, Manchin was the lead sponsor of a pared-down bill that included hundreds of billions of dollars in clean energy tax credits.
The bill also included fossil fuel wins, requiring the federal government to continue fossil fuel leases in the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet in Alaska and limiting the tax credit available for electric vehicles. Still, climate activists have called the resulting legislation the single most important climate law to date.
Public records with the West Virginia Secretary of State list Manchin IV as the president, secretary and treasurer of Enersystems. The business is based in Fairmont, West Virginia, a few minutes from Sen. Manchin’s hometown of Farmington.
Manchin’s financial report lists no liabilities, a rarity among congressional disclosures that often include mortgages or other loans and sometimes credit card or student loan debt. His assets totaled between $4.6 and $13.3 million. The disclosures only require ranges of assets to be described and not specific figures.
Mooney, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Manchin’s seat in next year’s election, reported receiving $44,500 in gifts. Mooney received 12 payments, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, all of which he said were for a “legal expense fund.”
All but two donors, Americans Legislating Excellence Political Action Committee and Tarr Holdings LLC, were from outside of West Virginia. The others were from Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.
Mooney is facing a congressional ethics investigation related to charges that he misused campaign funds for personal expenses and accepted improper gifts from campaign donors.
Mooney’s initial financial disclosure report to Congress, filed May 9, did not list any gifts. He filed an amended report May 25 — after the May 15 deadline — that included them. Under House rules, members must disclose gifts if a single donor gives more than $415.
“Representative Mooney opened a legal fund and has followed all the applicable laws including authorization from the ethics committee,” Mooney campaign spokesman Mark Harris wrote in an email.
Mooney also reported the least assets of any member of West Virginia’s delegation. Almost all his household assets are in retirement accounts maintained by the state of Maryland, where he was a state senator for 12 years. The assets total between $66,000 and $290,000.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and U.S. Rep Carol Miller, both Republicans, each reported owning dozens of individual corporate stocks. It’s legal for members of Congress to hold individual stocks — and common — but some ethics experts say the practice raises serious conflict-of-interest concerns and there are efforts within Congress to ban it.
Members of Congress have access to nonpublic information and, especially through key committee assignments, can directly impact an industry. Holding stocks of individual companies, rather than a diverse economy-wide fund, makes it easier for members to have an effect on their own financial interests, Hedtler-Gaudette said.
“It’s easy to see how that becomes a ripe area for potential corruption and conflict of interest,” he said.
Miller was the only member of the West Virginia delegation to request an extension for her 2022 report. Her report has not yet been filed and is now due August 15.
On her 2021 report, almost all of Miller’s holdings were reported to be owned by her husband, Matt Miller, who owns four auto dealerships in West Virginia and one in North Carolina. Congressional financial disclosures are required to include the finances of spouses and dependent children.
The stock holdings include investments in more than 20 large companies, including in industries such as health care, banking and technology that often have business in front of Congress. The largest of the stock holdings are in Microsoft and UnitedHealth Group. Matt Miller has between $100,000 and $250,000 of stock in each, according to the 2021 report.
As a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Miller has more influence than most lawmakers over virtually every sector of the economy.
The value of the auto dealerships is even more difficult to discern than most items on financial disclosures. Assets of more than $1 million that are wholly controlled by a member’s spouse do not list a maximum amount. All five dealerships are listed at more than $1 million in value.
Miller reported the greatest net worth of any member of the West Virginia delegation, with total assets of at least $13.4 million.
In the liabilities section of the report, Miller listed five outstanding loans, including a campaign loan of $100,000 to $250,000 with B&T Huntington Bank. The other four, each for more than $1 million, were loans her husband took out.
A spokeswoman for Miller declined to comment.
Capito’s stock holdings were more modest, with most ranging in value from $1,000 to $15,000. She and her husband owned corporate stocks in nearly 40 companies.
Capito is the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. With the exceptions of energy companies Duke Energy Corp., Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, the individual stocks Capito and her husband hold are not with companies directly impacted by that committee’s work.
Capito was a more active stock trader than other members of the delegation. She has filed eight periodic transaction reports in the last 13 months.
Spokespeople for Capito did not return a message seeking comment.