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Koch network pressures Sens. Manchin, Sinema to oppose $739 billion tax-and-spending bill

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., board an elevator after a private meeting between the two of them on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

The political network backed by billionaire Charles Koch launched an ad blitz targeting Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to get the moderate Democrats to block a massive spending-and-tax package that’s advancing in the Senate.

The bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, promises to raise $739 billion in new revenue — mostly by setting a minimum corporate tax rate and making changes to Medicare drug pricing — to help pay for $433 billion in climate and health initiatives.

The legislation is a pared back version of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which failed earlier this year after Manchin and Sinema opposed key elements of the bill. The legislation has a renewed chance of passing after Manchin reached a deal last week on a smaller tax-and-spending package with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. It represents one of the most important pieces of legislation for Democrats as they fight to hold onto the Senate with the November midterms just under 100 days away. Manchin and Sinema, who are both up for reelection in 2024, represent key votes in the Senate, with the chamber split 50-50.

Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the larger Koch network, launched two ads on Saturday on its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. The ads specifically call out Manchin and Sinema, encouraging them to oppose the legislation. “Senator Manchin can stop it. Come on Joe…Say NO for West Virginia,” the Manchin ad says. The Sinema ad has an almost identical look, only that ad concludes by stating “Senator Sinema can stop it. Come on Kyrsten… Say NO for Arizona.”

Each ad by the Koch backed group calls the bill a “$739 billion tax hike that will raise prices & make American energy more expensive.” The group’s posts on their media platforms link to an online messaging portal, allowing supporters to call on lawmakers to oppose the legislation.

Facebook’s ad archive shows that the spots were playing in Manchin and Sinema’s respective states of West Virginia and Arizona, as well as in Washington D.C.

Bill Riggs, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity, told CNBC in an email on Monday that the ad campaign versus the reconciliation bill is a six figure buy on digital platforms and connected TV. He said they are planning to expand this week to targeting fellow Democrats Sens. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. All three of those Democrats are up for reelection in 2022 states that are expected to be competitive. Sinema and Manchin aren’t up for reelection until 2024.

The Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, which was founded by Charles Koch, contributed $40 million to Americans for Prosperity in 2020, according to the group’s latest financial disclosure. Koch is also the CEO of the massive conglomerate known as Koch Industries, which owns multiple energy subsidiaries.

Manchin has said this bill isn’t a spending package and doesn’t raise taxes but instead is more focused on investing money. Sinema has yet to publicly comment on the bill.

Representatives for Manchin and Sinema did not return requests for comment.

The West Virginia lawmaker reached a deal with Schumer last week about the massive reconciliation package that aims to reform the tax code, fight climate change and cut health-care costs for consumers. The bill, if passed, would impose a 15% corporate minimum tax and close the carried interest loophole that allows hedge fund managers and private equity partners to pay lower taxes.

Still, for both lawmakers, this is the latest attempt by an outside group with ties to corporate executives to try to sway their vote. The Koch network targeted both Sinema and Manchin throughout the 2022 election cycle. Americans for Prosperity leaders previously called on their grassroots supporters to push Manchin to oppose some of his party’s legislative priorities.

Corporations and their executives have also poured money into Manchin and Sinema’s reelection campaigns. Manchin’s campaign raised over $1 million over the past three months, which included contributions from several energy companies, including Coterra Energy, NextEra Energy and Xcel Energy.

Federal Election Commission records show Sinema’ s campaign also received donations from chemical company Dow Inc., pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and telecom behemoth Verizon, among other corporations, over that same time period.

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