WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin is keeping the nation guessing on his future plans, and one person has emerged as the West Virginia Democrat’s closest confidant as he charts a political course that could shake Washington: his daughter, Heather Manchin.
Since stepping down as the CEO of pharmaceutical company Mylan, where she became the first woman to run a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, she has been heavily involved in her father’s political dealings, serving as a top adviser, according to three people close to the family.
It comes as Manchin, 76, openly flirts with a third-party run for president, having been courted by No Labels, the centrist group, as it seeks to present an alternative to voters shuddering at the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch. Manchin has also kept the door open to a Senate re-election bid in heavily Republican West Virginia in 2024, when the state will be one of the GOP’s top targets as the party tries to flip the chamber.
And now, Heather Manchin, 56, is also launching her own centrist nonprofit group, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, pitching donors on a $100 million project that would boost middle-of-the-road candidates and policies.
She insists that the effort is entirely separate from her father.
“I love and support my father in whatever he decides to do,” Heather Manchin told NBC News in a statement. “But this effort is entirely independent of him because it’s bigger than him or any one person.”
She is closely involved in the senator’s decision-making and has maintained frequent contact with not only Manchin, but also his Senate staff, according to the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A spokesperson for Joe Manchin declined to comment.
And the focus of the new nonprofit group dovetails with Manchin’s political journey in the Senate and his considerations around 2024. He has blasted Democrats and Republicans repeatedly for “extreme abnormal” partisanship and, during a radio interview earlier this month, even threatened to leave the Democratic Party to become an independent.
Heather Manchin’s new organization, described by one source as “adjacent” to No Labels rather than a direct competitor, is still in its early stages. The source said she is in the process of fundraising and hiring staff and as of now is not interested in entering the political arena herself.
Her direct entrance into politics comes years after reports alleging that as the CEO of Mylan, she worked with the then-CEO of Pfizer more than a decade ago to keep prices of the EpiPen product artificially high, as her company gave generous contributions to her father’s Senate campaigns.
After her father began leaning on her in recent years, Heather Manchin saw first-hand the “incredible dysfunction” in the political system and has since sought to fix it, a source close to the Manchin family said.
“Manufacturing anger is now the surest path to power in American politics,” Heather Manchin told NBC News. “And it’s tearing us apart.”