According to New York Times reporters Kenneth P. Vogel and Kate Kelly, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are attracting some wealthy GOP donors.
"Even as Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, both Democrats, have drawn fire from the left for their efforts to shrink and reshape (President Joe) Biden's proposals," Vogel and Kelly explain, "they have won growing financial support from conservative-leaning donors and business executives in a striking display of how party affiliation can prove secondary to special interests and ideological motivations when the stakes are high enough. Ms. Sinema is winning more financial backing from Wall Street and constituencies on the right in large part for her opposition to raising personal and corporate income tax rates. Mr. Manchin has attracted new Republican-leaning donors as he has fought against much of his own party to scale back the size of Mr. Biden's legislation and limit new social welfare components."
The blue wave of 2018 showed how big a tent the Democratic Party is. Progressive allies of Sen. Bernie Sanders such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota were among the success stories of 2018, but so were Manchin (who was reelected) and Sinema — who has often described the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona as her political idol and has been on very friendly terms with his daughter, conservative GOP activist Meghan McCain. And with Democrats having only a razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate, Manchin and Sinema have the power to make or break legislation.
"The stream of cash to the campaigns of Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin from outside normal Democratic channels stands out because many of the donors have little history with them," Vogel and Kelly observe. "The financial support is also notable for how closely tied it has been to their power over a single piece of legislation, the fate of which continues to rest largely with the two senators because their party cannot afford to lose either of their votes in the evenly divided Senate."
The legislation that the Times reporters are referring to is the Build Back Better Act of 2021, which recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
"Their influence has been profound," Vogel and Kelly say of Manchin and Sinema. "The domestic policy bill, which would expand the social safety net and efforts to fight climate change, started out at $3.5 trillion and has been shrunk — mainly at the insistence of Mr. Manchin — to around $2 trillion; it could get smaller as the Senate takes up the version passed on (November 19) by the House."
The Times reporters note that Stanley S. Hubbard, a billionaire Republican, made a donation to Sinema in September, and Kenneth G. Langone (a Republican billionaire and Wall Street investor) recently donated to Manchin.
According to Vogel and Kelly, "One Wall Street executive joked that in his industry, Ms. Sinema — who, as a young politician, once likened political donations to 'bribery' — was now referred to as 'Saint Sinema' for opposing most of Mr. Biden's proposed taxes on the wealthy. She has, however, supported a 15% corporate minimum tax and other revenue-raising measures that will help pay for Mr. Biden's legislative spending."