Independent Ethics Expert: “You don’t get to mislead donors. You don’t get to take money that’s intended for a public use and turn it into a private benefit, and she has clearly done that in spades.”
The 27-page complaint outlines Sinema’s questionable spending of campaign funds on luxury hotels, chauffeurs, private jets, fancy dinners, and wine.
Yesterday, Change for Arizona 2024 PAC (better known as “Replace Sinema”), filed a 27-page formal complaint against Senator Kyrsten Sinema and three of her political fundraising entities with the Federal Election Commission. The complaint alleges that Sinema “illegally diverted funds that were donated to her for campaigning for federal office by making expenditures for her personal use and benefit.”
AZ Family 3TV/CBS 5 in Phoenix covered the complaint on its evening broadcasts:
Sinema’s spokesperson issued a response calling the complaint a “political attack.” However, an independent ethics expert told 3TV/CBS 5 that the complaint has merit. “When I read this FEC complaint, I was shocked – and I’ve seen a lot of political corruption in my life,” said prominent Arizona attorney Tom Ryan, who is a past president of the Arizona Association of Justice. “You don’t get to mislead donors. You don’t get to take money that’s intended for a public use and turn it into a private benefit, and she has clearly done that in spades.”
“Running a Boston Marathon, or skiing in Vail, or attending wine seminars in Napa Valley – none of that is directed towards campaigning in the state of Arizona and that’s why it’s problematic,” added the ethics expert. “Ultimately, this is something that could go to the Department of Justice and my suggestion is that it should go to the Department of Justice for further investigation.”
The complaint details Sinema’s expenditures on luxury hotels and resorts, car services, charter flights, high-end restaurants, wine, and in pursuit of her athletic hobby. It also raises questions about Sinema’s unusual security expenses.
- “Campaign donors, many from the same Wall Street and private equity firms that have benefitted from Senator Sinema’s legislative actions, including her protection of the carried interest loophole, appear to have financed Senator Sinema’s athletic avocation, luxury accommodations, Michelin-star meals, limousine service, and international travel to cities including Paris, London, and Barcelona. These lavish expenditures appear to serve no legitimate campaign purpose. […] While Sinema is on international trips or running marathons or pursuing her high-end wine hobby – each of which has been subsidized by campaign donors – Arizona families are struggling with an increased cost of living and a housing crisis partially fueled by the very same private equity firms that donate to Sinema’s campaigns.”
- Read the full complaint here.
The complaint comes amidst several recent news investigations into Sinema’s spending, including luxury expenses, travel to international hotspots like Paris and Barcelona on her donors’ dime, and use of campaign funds related to her athletic hobby – including, for example, an $8,000 bill to stay at the Ritz Carlton during the Boston Marathon.
The spending scandal, combined with Sinema’s ongoing ties to special interests, including the private equity industry, has led several Arizona groups and elected legislators to call for Sinema to resign.
Earlier, a separate complaint was filed with the Senate Ethics Committee related to Sinema’s abuse of her staff. The leaked memo detailing Sinema’s treatment of staff also included a look into how Sinema schedules her time – a weekly one-hour massage, two physical therapy appointments per week related to her athletic training, coffees with lobbyists and donors, but only thirty minutes per week for constituents (with each constituent limited to just three minutes of the Senator’s time). Bizarrely, Sinema was also caught selling clothes on Facebook marketplace during the legislative workday.
“We have been watching with growing concern the instances of Sinema abusing the power of her office, exploiting her campaign and Senate accounts for personal use. We now demand an official investigation into whether Senator Sinema has broken the law,” said Luis Avila, Replace Sinema senior advisor, who signed the complaint on behalf of Change for Arizona 2024 PAC. “Sinema jets off to Europe to fundraise with billionaires but she refuses to hold a public town hall or even take a meeting with us, and on behalf of every Arizonan, we deserve answers.”
Some key bullets in the complaint:
Sinema spent over $180,000 in campaign, PAC, and Senate funds on luxury hotels and resorts, car services, expensive charter flights, high-end restaurants, and winery visits and purchases from 2019 to 2022.
Many of the establishments Sinema visited are known and advertised to be luxurious, upscale, or high-end with costs and rates significantly above a reasonable amount for campaign purposes.
Many of the costs outlined are not typical of those made in the ordinary course of business by a political campaign committee subject to FEC regulation–including funds used for personal hobbies, recreational sports, competitions, and leisure activities:
Sinema has participated in at least 17 marathons, triathlons, and bicycle races, and used both campaign and Senate funds to subsidize these trips and activities, in one instance spending $9,000 of campaign funds on a trip to Boston to participate in the Boston Marathon
Sinema spent more than $20,000 on at least two trips to Europe in which she traveled with friends and family, with transactions at high-end restaurants and luxury Parisian hotels.
Sinema disbursed over $370,000 to her friend Tulsi Gabbard’s Sister Vrindavan Gabbard Bellord for security.
About Replace Sinema: The “Replace Sinema” campaign, a project of Change for Arizona 2024 PAC, was launched in September 2022 as “Primary Sinema” to educate voters about the ways Krysten Sinema has let down Arizonans and caved to special interests. To date, the campaign has raised $1.2 million – including from more than 17,000 grassroots donors representing everyday Arizonans and Americans across the country who want to replace Kyrsten Sinema with a real Democrat. Now, as Kyrsten Sinema has left the Democratic Party, the group’s effort has shifted toward defeating Sinema in a potential three-way general election and ensuring that Arizonans have a Senator who will put everyday people ahead of corporations and special interests.