FEC complaint calls for federal probe of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema spending

A PAC filed a complaint against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema allegeding questionable campaign spending on a luxury lifestyle.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 7:42 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — A complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission asks regulators to open a formal investigation into campaign spending by Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema has faced mounting questions about the legitimacy of more than $180,000 in campaign expenditures dating back to 2019 on luxury hotels, posh resorts, Michelin-star restaurants, international travel and winery visits. The campaign spending has drawn further scrutiny because it occurred while Sinema was not actively campaigning for office. The senator has declined to announce whether she will run for reelection in 2024.

The complaint, filed by Change for Arizona 2024, a political action committee openly trying to unseat the senator, outlines potential violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act. It alleges that Sinema “illegally diverted funds” intended for her campaign for personal use.

In a statement to Arizona’s Family, a spokesman dismissed the complaint as a desperate political attack. “It’s not surprising that desperate political attacks from dark money Super PACs are based on lies. There’s no standing here, and Kyrsten remains laser focused on delivering lasting solutions to the challenges we face – including addressing our border crisis and ensuring Arizonans are protected from a national default,” a spokesman for Sinema’s office said via email.

However, an independent attorney and government ethics expert not involved with the PAC said the claims appear to have merit. “When I read this FEC complaint, I was shocked – and I’ve seen a lot of political corruption in my life,” said attorney Tom Ryan. “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 spokesman for Sinema declined further comment.

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema refused to comment Friday on claims she spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds used on personal expenses.

The complaint accuses Sinema of financing a “lifestyle of luxury” with donor money, highlighting trips to lavish resorts in Paris and her personal hobby of competitive racing. New reports this week raised questions about why Sinema’s campaign covered more than $9,000 in expenses while she was taking part in the Boston Marathon in April 2022. Sinema has participated in at least 17 marathons and other races since she took office, the complaint says, and has used both campaign funds and public funds to subsidize the trips. The complaint alleges she added incidental campaign events or small fundraisers onto the travel and then paid for the entire trip with campaign funds. “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,” Ryan said. That kind of spending appears to be a “clear cut” violation of federal law, he added.

If the complaint is substantiated, Sinema could be forced to pay back funds that were improperly spent, Ryan said. In extreme cases, politicians who misuse public funds can face criminal prosecution.”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,” Ryan said.