Senator Kyrsten Sinema Criticized For Using Campaign Funds To Travel To.. Marathons?

Senator Kyrsten Sinema appears to schedule fundraising events around marathons and triathlons she competes in so that her campaign can cover the travel costs. She seems to favor Ritz-Carlton, and spends a lot more on non-election related travel than similarly-situated Senators.

In a four-year span from 2019 to 2022, during which Sinema was not on any ballot, her campaign spent over $117,000 on airfare expenses. Compared to her colleagues, she’s a clear anomaly. Two fellow western state Democrats, also facing competitive elections in 2024, spent fractions of that amount in the same time period: Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) spent $18,300, while Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) spent $23,600.

The differences are just as stark when it comes to lodging expenses. In the same time period, Sinema spent over $105,000 on hotels, while Tester and Rosen each spent about $9,300. Notably, some of Sinema’s travel spending is earmarked as “security detail” expenses, bringing up her costs.

Seems clever! Except maybe not all of the travel categorized as being for a fundraiser involved any actual fundraising?

On Aug. 3, 2019, Sinema participated in an Ironman race in Boulder, Colorado. Roughly two weeks later, Sinema’s campaign paid a Denver-area vendor $765 for “event catering.” In the three months prior to the trip, her campaign spent nearly $7,000 on airfare.

But Sinema raised no money in Colorado in Aug. 2019, aside from three small-dollar contributions processed online.

Senator Sinema is an American Airlines Executive Platinum member whose staff put out a 37 page memo on meeting her travel expectations. She likes room temperature bottled water available at all times (honestly, so do I). She likes a weekly hour-long massage. She wants to avoid flying Southwest though they’re a huge carrier in her home state. She “does not like to fly” and asks staffers to pick her preferred seats when she does.

Sinema made a bold move in declaring herself an independent, caucusing with Democrats, because that gets her out of facing an opponent in the Democratic primary as she runs for re-election. Some argue that private equity now has its own political party.

If progressives want to make more progress on legislation, they want more Senators like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, not fewer. That’s because those are candidates who can win in swing states (Manchin is the best Democrats could ever conceivably do in West Virginia!). And with more of them, they’d have a bigger majority, and Manchin and Sinema themselves wouldn’t hold as many cards.

Ultimately Sinema seems to have fit in well in the Senate rather quickly, learning how the system works. She’s not really an outlier in this regard.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez faced corruption charges over acceptance of a suite at the Park Hyatt Vendome redeemed by a donor with American Express Membership Rewards points. A court didn’t buy that the suite had no value because redeemed with points, the method of payment wasn’t relevant to the value received (and indeed he should have been liable for such a criminally poor use of points). Menendez was ultimately acquitted – it is very hard to prove corruption, which entails specific quid pro quo – though there’s a new corruption investigation. In contrast, no one has suggested Sinema broke any laws.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sucks that US government politics has come to this.

    Senators are supposed to lead, and to represent the people they serve.

    Not act like wannabe D list celebs with multi-page riders about the temp of bottled water.

    “Leaders eat last” –Simon Sinek. A real leader of the people flies Southwest at boarding position C-60, then offers their bottled water to a seatmate who is thirsty.

    Too bad our politicians are grifters. The only silver lining is that Sinema is on the correct party. Yes I mean correct. GOP has pivoted to full on bigotry and ignorance that can no longer be accepted as simply a different point of view. GOP is dangerous to democracy. GOP voters are all morons.

  2. I worked in Washington a few years ago when John Boehner with Speaker. There are some very strict rules in Congress about free drinks and free meals. Anyways, Boehner and I frequented some of the same restaurants. I would see him standing or sitting with his back turned away at an angle from the table. His one glass of wine magically never emptied because just when he would turn away, the waiter would appear and fill it back up. Likewise, a small appetizer or bread plate would never go empty with the same trick.

  3. @UA GS@GFO

    STFU you moron just look at what the democrats have done to this country they have totally screwed it up. I am in no way defending Republicans as there is a bunch on that side that have screwed things up as well

  4. To quote: “If progressives want to make more progress on legislation, they want more Senators like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, not fewer. That’s because those are candidates who can win in swing states (Manchin is the best Democrats could ever conceivably do in West Virginia!).” West Virginia is a swing state? Your definition of a swing state must be different than literally anyone else’s. It’s like calling Oklahoma or Utah swing states. Also, Manchin is only useful being tagged as a Democrat for majority committee purposes and such. But otherwise , he’s a Republican. He votes like a Republican (definitely not Progressive) and blocks Progressive legislation. He pretty much lives in his houseboat called “Almost Heaven” and disparages the fools in his state that vote for him. You stretched on this one, bigly,

  5. I don’t always agree with her politics, but officially throw my hat into the campaign to be Kyrsten Sinema’s masseuse!

  6. The discussion here is about the alleged fraudulent use of campaign funds. Too many of your readers want to take the opportunity to battle and bludgeon those with different opinions.

    We appreciate the fact that you allow and do not usually censor comments on your forum. But when someone is using aggressive and belligerent language, those comments should be monitored and, when necessary, censored or removed. Offenders need to be reminded that comments should be used to inform and enlighten.

    Why let a few destroy the value of open and informative discussion?

  7. If somebody gives a campaign contribution to a politician, and the politician decides to spend it on dumb stuff instead of campaigning, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. Am I missing something?

  8. 1. Seems like she should change her name to Karen.

    2. Looks like what the..ahem…Senator is doing is shady, but not illegal. Like many people, she is finding the loopholes she can exploit to her benefit. Let’s be honest, a lot of people do this and, while suspect, if it’s not illegal, no one has the right to complain.

    3. @Gary, every time you let these conversation descend into political mudslinging, name calling and narrow-minded discourse you sully your own brand and diminish the value of the service you provide. You can’t be on here 24/7, but you can certainly set up filters with key words that trigger a manual review to approve the posting. It’s not about telling people about what they can and cannot believe. It’s about acknowledging that this is supposed to be a travel blog, not a place for political discourse or for cyberbullies to viciously attack people who disagree with them..

  9. “If progressives want to make more progress on legislation, they want more Senators like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, not fewer. That’s because those are candidates who can win in swing states”

    What are you even talking about? Arizona’s other senator is Mark Kelly. Clearly Democrats can win in AZ without needing to rely on someone like Sinema. What progressives should really want more of is senators like Sherrod Brown who can win in red states while actually being, you know, progressive.

  10. Its funny how quickly the left turns on their own when they step out of line espeically when you’re a woman or minority.

    Just ask any black conservative how they are treated by yt lefties when they find out they aren’t on their “side”, the racism they get from the american left isn’t much different than something from a segregationist in the 1920s. Then again the democrat party is the party of slavery and segregation as well as the “progressives” of the 1920s that pushed eugenics and Margret sanger.

  11. @Babblespeak

    “Progressive” is a dog whistle for Marxism. They should be blocked all the time. They are the enemy of this nation.

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