HEROES: Manchin, Sinema Stand Athwart Big Tech Billionaires, Yelling Stop

Dems push to eliminate filibuster at behest of ultrawealthy donors

January 19, 2022

President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies want to eliminate the Senate filibuster to ram through controversial "voting rights" legislation, and they keep pressuring Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) to go along with their radical agenda. Why?

Democrats have consistently supported the Senate filibuster as a critical tool to protect the rights of American voters. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), for example, once argued that ending the filibuster would be "a doomsday for democracy." They now insist that not ending the filibuster will destroy democracy.

It's not as though an overwhelming majority of Americans are clamoring for so-called election reform. According to a December 2021 Gallup survey, just 1 percent of American adults said "election reform" was the most important problem facing the country. Not surprisingly, Americans are far more concerned about issues such as the economy, inflation, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

A handful of ultrawealthy Democratic donors, meanwhile, have been waging a "furious pressure campaign" in an effort to get their policy preferences enacted. As you might expect, these megadonors don't necessarily regard the pandemic, the economy, or inflation as significant problems in their everyday lives. But they are very keen to see the filibuster eliminated so that the Democrats whose campaigns they finance can pursue the niche issues they care about, such as "election reform."

Puck reports that some of the Democratic Party's wealthiest donors have spent the last several months aggressively lobbying the White House and Senate Democrats to scrap the filibuster. The pressure campaign was spearheaded by Ron Conway, a Big Tech billionaire and close friend of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and Karla Jurvetson, the ex-wife of Big Tech billionaire Steve Jurvetson.

A number of influential dark-money donor collaboratives, such as Voices for Progress and the George Soros-funded Democracy Alliance, were also involved in the effort, which would have succeeded if not for Manchin and Sinema, whose principled opposition to ending the filibuster has not wavered.

These wealthy donors have grown increasingly frustrated, Puck notes, and voiced that frustration last week on a "strategy call" with Schumer organized by Voices for Progress and the Democracy Alliance. Reporter Theodore Schleifer described the call as an attempt by Schumer to "manage—and channel—the anger and pockets of his party's ultra-rich."

The Big Tech billionaires have been pressuring the White House since at least October, when Conway and Jurvetson organized a strongly worded letter to Biden chief of staff Ron Klain. The letter was cosigned by three dozen of the president's largest donors, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former Facebook executive Matt Cohler, hedge fund titan Donald Sussman, and Jonathan Soros, son of George.

"As American citizens, we are deeply concerned about the direction our country is headed and strongly believe these threats are only going to get worse if we don't act immediately to protect our democracy," the donors wrote in the letter. "We need your personal leadership and the full force of your Administration to engage in the work to get this legislation enacted, whatever it may take."

Unfortunately for these concerned billionaires, principled lawmakers like Manchin and Sinema have stood athwart, yelling stop. Nevertheless, the billionaires persisted. Last week, a group that calls itself the Freedom to Vote Alliance penned a new letter to Biden, Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) that urged them to "reform Senate rules to ensure that vital voting rights legislation can receive a straight up-or-down vote before we lose the window to act." Signatories included LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, former Reddit CEO Alexis Ohanian, and Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson.

Lawson recently published an open letter to the "business community" that asserted that American democracy "is in more peril than at any time since the Civil War" and called on wealthy investors to pressure Manchin and Sinema to abandon their principled opposition to ending the filibuster. "Simply put, they know that jobs mean reelection—so hearing that the business community believes in voting rights can provide the needed impetus for their action," he wrote.

There was a time when Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media were very concerned about the corrupting influence of money in politics and the outsized role of "millionaires and billionaires" in setting the agenda in Congress. At this point, questions such as "Where's the outrage?" are merely rhetorical. The Democratic Party has in recent years asserted itself as the party of America's corporate élite, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.

Manchin and Sinema have shown great courage in standing up to this financial behemoth. They are the titans of principle America needs right now. They are heroes. God bless them.