The wife of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia may have violated an ethics pledge she made before taking her spot heading a federal economic development board, according to Fox News.
Gayle Manchin aided an Appalachia-focused nonprofit in applying for and receiving $62.8 million in federal grant money, some of which was later dispersed to an organization led by Jack Rossi, Sen. Manchin’s longtime campaign treasurer. Gayle heads a federal board that oversees Appalachia development, and her consulting on the grant process may be a violation of an ethics pledge she made before joining the board, according to Fox News.
Gayle, the co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), advised the nonprofit group Coalfield Development on how to apply for federal grant money offered as part of the American Rescue Plan, emails reviewed by Fox suggest. Coalfield Development was one of 21 groups that competed for $100 million in grant money through the American Rescue Plan.
Coalfield Development CEO Brandon Dennison sent Gayle an email on October 19, 2021, that referenced his grant application and a phone call that Dennison and Gayle had apparently shared, describing it as “complementary and supportive of the ARC-initiated effort.” Dennison added that, despite the “highly competitive” application process, he was “looking forward to continued collaboration” with ARC.
Coalfield Development’s application earned the organization $62.8 million in federal grant money, $13 million of which was dispersed to the Charleston Area Alliance, on whose board of directors Rossi sits as chair.
Before Gayle joined ARC as co-chair, she signed an ethics pledge vowing “to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest” including “in any particular matter in which I know that I have a financial interest directly and predictably affected by the matter, or in which I know that a person whose interests are imputed to me has a financial interest directly and predictably affected by the particular matter.”
ARC denied any foul play in the rewarding of the grant money or any assertion that Gayle may have acted in violation of the pledge. “Federal Co-Chair Manchin does not have any financial interest in Coalfield Development, nor in the ACT Now Coalition,” a climate investment fund run by Coalfield Development, ARC said in a statement.
ARC said that Gayle “encouraged organizations in Appalachia to apply” for the grant money, but had “no role in approving any EDA Build Back Better applications.”
Coalfield Development accused Fox News of reporting “multiple inaccuracies” regarding Gayle’s involvement in the grant process. A Daily Wire request for further details on the inaccuracies was not answered by press time.
Gayle joined ARC on President Joe Biden’s recommendation in April 2021, roughly three months into Biden’s first term in office. Sen. Manchin is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He is a moderate Democrat and key swing vote in the closely divided Senate.
The Manchins have courted controversy about their finances before. Sen. Manchin made a fortune selling coal “gob,” typically a mining waste product, to a West Virginia power plant. Manchin, when he was serving as a state senator, helped the plant’s developers through application and regulatory processes, and his coal company has been in business with the plant for about two decades.