Kyrsten Sinema is raising money from both Democrats & Republicans

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema speaking with attendees at the 2019 Update from Capitol Hill hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.
Sen. Kyrsten SinemaPhoto: Gage Skidmore

What political party does Sen. Kirsten Sinema (I-AZ) belong to? Apparently, whatever party she thinks she can suck money out of.

Strictly speaking, Arizona’s senior senator is not affiliated with either party, despite having been elected as a Democrat. She declared herself an independent late last year.

At the time, with the kind of self-importance that has come to characterize her every utterance, Sinema said, “Removing myself from the partisan structure… not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country, who also are tired of the partisanship.”

However, Sinema’s idea of avoiding partisanship is to trash-talk Democrats in front of fat cats whose checks she’s collecting while also using the Democrats’ fundraising platform to rake in money for a potential re-election campaign.

It’s no secret that Sinema has spent a lot of time cozying up to Republican lobbyists and donors. What has come out more recently, though, is that she likes to ingratiate herself to her audiences by trashing her one-time Democratic colleagues.

“Old dudes are eating Jell-O, everyone is talking about how great they are,” is how Sinema described Democratic strategizing sessions to the delight of a group of GOP lobbyists this year. She also made it abundantly clear that any connection to the Democrats was strictly transactional.

“I’m not caucusing with the Democrats, I’m formally aligned with the Democrats for committee purposes,” Sinema told the group, according to Politico. “But apart from that I am not a part of the caucus.”

Of course, Republicans are thrilled with the shade Sinema is throwing on the party that was responsible for her electoral success. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said he could imagine campaigning for her. Meanwhile, Sinema is sucking up to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), apparently in hopes of securing his support to run for re-election as a Republican.

Yet even as she’s vacuuming up bucks from the Democrats’ opponents, Sinema is still relying on ActBlue, the Democrats’ main fundraising platform, to pull in money from small donors. As much as Sinema proclaims her independence from Democrats, she still indeed caucuses with them. As such, she’s entitled to use the fundraising platform, even though she’s done everything in her power to sabotage the party’s agenda.

Arizona Democrats are wise to her, however. Her fundraising on ActBlue is pitifully low. In the three weeks after she announced she was going independent, she raised a paltry $25,000. In general, small donors have closed their wallets and purses to Sinema, consistent with the low regard with which they hold her in polling. She is among the most unpopular U.S. senators in the nation.

The big question is, will Sinema actually spend any of this money on a campaign? In some inside-the-Beltway fantasy, she could run a third-party campaign against the Democrat and Republican candidates and emerge victorious. The reality is that Democrats despise her and Republicans have no reason to support her when a true believer like failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is in the wings.

That would leave Sinema sitting with a boatload of money that she could donate to other candidates or to a nonprofit. Or she could transfer to an entity called a leadership PAC, which the Federal Elections Commission has generally paid little attention to. While leadership PACs spend leftover campaign funds the way most other PACs do, Michael Beckel, research director at Issue One, a campaign finance reform group, told Roll Call that “in theory, leftover leadership PAC funds could be spent on just about anything,” including personal use.

No matter what happens, Sinema’s affinity for money is, in a warped way, a return to her roots. She began her career as a member of the Green Party. Now the party doesn’t matter. It’s just all about the green.

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