Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) has filled her campaign coffers with Wall Street cash — but some donors are miffed she’s spent more than $100,000 of it on luxury hotels, private jets, limos and fine wines, On The Money has learned.
Since 2021, Sinema has spent nearly $20,000 worth of campaign donations on wine-related expenses alone — dropping thousands at some of the most exclusive vineyards on the West Coast including Promontory Winery in Napa Valley, Auteur Winery in Sonoma and Argyle Winery in the Willamette Valley, according to election filings.
During that same timeframe, Sinema spent nearly $10,000 in campaign funds at posh restaurants like the Russian Tea Room in New York City and Sketch in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, as well as restaurants in Barcelona, Paris and Miami.
Sinema posted an Instagram and tagged her partner Lindsey Buckman at San Diego’s Civico 1845 — where she dropped $600 in campaign funds in February and June of last year, filings show.
An even bigger drain on campaign coffers: more than $45,000 on chauffeurs since 2019. On a trip to New York in December, Sinema paid a luxury car service more than $4,000 for a single day, according to filings.
Last month, On The Money reported Sinema’s campaign is being hounded by angry Democratic donors who want their money back. Neither the senator nor her staff are even bothering to respond anymore, a source added.
Meanwhile, the lavish spending looks egregious even by the standards of Capitol Hill, Thomas Jones, president of the American Accountability Foundation, told On The Money.
“This appears to be an outlier,” Jones said. “There’s a decent number of fundraiser type events at nice restaurants and steak houses but Sinema’s spending appears outside the norm. Donors generally want candidates spending their money on winning their races – not on expensive meals and fancy destinations.”
Sinema’s penchant for luxe air travel has grabbed headlines before. Between 2020 and December, she spent $67,436 in taxpayer funds for jet charters, according to an analysis of congressional spending records by Newsweek, which said Sinema “ranked near the top spenders on charter flights in the Senate.”
The senator is also notorious for taking personal trips and adding on a meeting or two as an excuse to expense the whole thing. Since 2019, she has billed her campaign $35,000 for stays at luxury resorts from California to the Cote D’Azur.
Last April, when Sinema traveled to Boston for the marathon, she stayed in the nearby Ritz Carlton, tacked on a donor meeting and expensed $8,400 to her campaign, a source told On The Money. Sinema ran the marathon again earlier this week but it’s unclear where she stayed or who paid for it.
Sinema is too busy spending it to give it back.
In August, Sinema squashed a challenge to the “carried-interest” loophole that taxes private equity and hedge fund profits at a lower rate than other businesses. The move benefits only a handful of private-equity and hedge fund titans — most of whom are in New York and LA not Arizona which Sinema is supposed to represent.
“It’s pretty simple: Kyrsten Sinema delivered an $18 billion gift to private equity executives and now they’re paying her back with campaign donations,” former Sinema staffer Sacha Haworth told On The Money.
In the first quarter this year, nearly half of Sinema’s donations came from donors associated with three major private equity firms, according to a Federal Election Commission filing. Employees and executives at The Carlyle Group, Blackstone, and KKR contributed 45% of the $2.1 million Sinema raised in the first three months of 2023.
Last fall — after making sure the private equity loophole stayed open — Sinema raised $526,000 from Wall Street donors.
It’s unclear whether the move is actually a violation of campaign finance.
“Whether it’s a technical violation of FEC rules, it’s clearly a misuse of donor money,” according to Jones of the American Accountability Foundation. “It’s either irresponsible or impermissible.”
“Sinema will have a lot of funding from Wall Street — her whole goal was to get money from these types,” Garrett Ventry, a former aide to Grassley, told On The Money. “Of course that is something of a turn off to everyone in this environment.”
A spokesperson for Sinema did not respond to a request for comment.
After Sinema changed her party affiliation to independent from Democrat last December, she lost the fundraising apparatus associated with the Democratic Party. Her decision to go it alone suggested to many insiders she was confident she could raise plenty of money on her own for her still-unannounced 2024 re-election bid.
While Sinema has more than $8 million in her war chest, she will need more as she gears up for a 2024 re-election campaign.
“Sinema hasn’t held a town hall in years, her constituents can’t get a hold of her, and she spends all of her time meeting with lobbyists,” Hacha adds. “So it’s no wonder she’s polling in last place in a three-way race.”
Others speculate Sinema may not even choose to run.
“If I was concerned about a competitive race, opulent spending doesn’t seem the wisest decision,” Jones adds.