Do Kyrsten Sinema’s demands on staffers violate ethics rules?

Kyrsten Sinema
Kyrsten Sinema Photo: Campaign website

A 37-page staff guide reveals details about how Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) approaches her job and runs her office. The memo, obtained by The Daily Beast, is reportedly a couple of years old but has at least one congressional ethics expert questioning whether the controversial lawmaker may have violated Senate ethics rules.

According to the report, the memo states that Sinema’s aides are required to shop for her groceries when she is in D.C., schedule weekly massages for her, keep a bottle of room temperature water on hand at all times, and let technicians into her D.C. apartment if her internet is down.

The memo also includes strict instructions about Sinema’s schedule. Staffers are reportedly expected to schedule her work commitments around her extensive training regime for marathons and Ironman events.

“She will very, very rarely agree to work outside the regular hours, so only ask if it’s a big deal,” according to the document. Staffers were instructed never to schedule work obligations before 1 p.m. on weekends and were required to make sure that the hotels where she stays when traveling had pools that met specific dimensions to accommodate her personal training. The memo also includes detailed instructions about making Sinema comfortable when flying, among other requirements.

According to the report, staffers found Sinema’s instructions detrimental to her office’s mission to serve constituents.

“Unsurprisingly, some staffers found these instructions—and Sinema’s zeal in ensuring they were followed to the letter—to not only be onerous but detrimental to the overall staff’s mission to serve constituents, craft policy, and communicate that work to Arizona,” the report said.

“When I look back, it’s unbelievable the amount of time staffers spent just to accommodate her,” one former staffer is quoted as saying.

The Daily Beast notes that while many members of Congress have high expectations for their staff, Sinema appears to be an outlier.

Craig Holman, a congressional ethics expert with Public Citizen, told The Daily Beast that Sinema violated Senate ethics rules by requiring staffers to perform personal tasks. According to the Senate ethics handbook, “Staff are compensated for the purpose of assisting Senators in their official legislative and representational duties, and not for the purpose of performing personal or other non-official activities for themselves or on behalf of others.”

Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley insisted that the senator’s office “does not require staff to perform personal errands.”

“The alleged information—sourced from anonymous quotes and a purported document I can’t verify—is not in line with official guidance from Sen. Sinema’s office and does not represent official policies of Sen. Sinema’s office,” Hurley said.

The memo also reportedly reveals that Sinema sets aside a single half-hour block of time on Wednesdays to meet with constituents in her D.C. office, limiting meeting times to three minutes. However, according to the document, staffers are free to schedule 15- to 20-minute meetings with lobbyists and donors. Sinema has been criticized for skirting appearances with constituents in Arizona while making time for donors and the business community.

Sinema, who is bisexual, announced earlier this month that she was leaving the Democratic Party and would register as an independent. She will be up for reelection in 2024 and may have to run against both a Democratic opponent and a Republican opponent if she chooses to run again.

A recent story in Slate also revealed that Sinema may spend at least some of her time reselling designer clothes and athletic gear via Facebook.

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