This Washington lobbyist is one of Joe Manchin’s staunchest allies: report

This Washington lobbyist is one of Joe Manchin’s staunchest allies: report

Although Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has often been a source of frustration to the liberal/progressive wing of his party, the centrist West Virginia Democrat still has plenty of diehard supporters — from Never Trump conservatives to fellow Blue Dog Democrats. And one of Manchin’s staunchest allies, according to the Washington Post, is lobbyist Larry Puccio.

Post reporters Theodoric Meyer and Jeff Stein, in an article published on Valentine’s Day, stress that during the Joe Biden era, Puccio has been cashing in on Manchin’s status as a key swing vote in the U.S. Senate.

“Manchin is now the Senate’s swing vote and one of the most powerful men in Washington, and Puccio has figured out how to monetize his ability to get his old boss on the phone,” Meyer and Stein explain. “Barely a month after Democrats reclaimed the Senate last year, turning the ability to sway Manchin into a sought-after skill, Puccio registered for the first time as a federal lobbyist.”

The reporters continue, “In less than a year, Puccio has cashed in. He and a partner have lobbied the Senate almost exclusively, according to disclosure filings, pulling in more than $310,000 in addition to his earnings from his extensive state-level lobbying business in West Virginia.”

The 74-year-old Manchin was always a swing vote in the U.S. Senate, but like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, he became a make-or-break swing vote when Democrats gained a narrow Senate majority in January 2021 with two runoff victories in Georgia: Sen. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff. If Manchin or Sinema vote with Republicans, it can sink a Democrat-sponsored bill — which is why lobbyists are paying such close attention to them.

“Puccio isn’t the only Manchin ally who’s been lured to K Street — several top lobbying firms snapped up former Manchin aides last year — but he goes back further with Manchin than almost anyone else in politics,” Meyer and Stein observe. “With trillions of dollars tied to Manchin’s vote, Washington clients have sought out Puccio’s guidance on how to influence the senator.”

The 66-year-old Puccio, according to the Post reporters, has known Manchin since he was in his early teens.

“Puccio spent nearly a decade as Manchin’s right-hand man, running his campaigns for secretary of state and for governor and serving as his chief of staff in both offices,” Meyer and Stein note. “When he stepped down in 2010 to become a lobbyist in the state, Manchin helped install him as the state party chairman and later tapped him to run Manchin’s leadership PAC. Many West Virginia Democrats view the two of them as inseparable, with Puccio able to speak on Manchin’s behalf in a way that no other aide or ally could.”

But the Post reporters also point out that while Manchin pays close attention to what Puccio has to say, that doesn’t automatically mean he will follow Puccio’s advice or vote with Puccio’s clients.

Tom Mainella, Democratic Mayor of Fairmont, West Virginia, told the Post, “Larry has always been with Joe, and that may be why some people want Larry to twist the senator’s arm about Build Back Better. But I don’t think anyone is going to twist the senator’s arm.”

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