Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) has been hit with a complaint alleging that she illegally used a huge cache of campaign funds over the course of three years to fund lavish trips across the U.S. and to Europe.
The complaint, filed by PAC Change for Arizona 2024 on Thursday, says that Sinema “committed serious violations” of federal campaign finance laws by spending over $180,000 on luxury items like hotels, flights, meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and winery visits between 2019 and 2022. These trips include at least 17 marathons that appear to have been funded with campaign or public funds.
These trips, to cities where she ran marathons in the U.S. and to international locales like Paris, London and Barcelona — among other expenditures — “appear to serve no legitimate campaign purpose,” according to the complaint. Rather, the PAC says that she has been funding her luxurious lifestyle through money from special interests, to the detriment of her own constituents.
The group is also known as Replace Sinema and was formed in 2021 to defeat Sinema in the 2024 election. It called for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to launch a probe into Sinema to root out potential abuses.
“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 Senator Sinema’s campaigns,” Change for Arizona 2024 wrote in the complaint.
Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley called the complaint a “political attack” and claimed that Sinema is focused on issues like addressing the so-called “border crisis.”
The filling comes after an article in the Daily Beast last week unveiled Sinema’s seeming habit of spending thousands of dollars on trips to run in marathons, staying at luxury hotels and resorts — and then pairing those trips with fundraising events in attempts to make the spending a legitimate campaign expense.
In April 2022, for instance, Sinema collected $16,000 from Massachusetts-based donors — the same month that the campaign spent nearly $8,500 on expenses at a Ritz-Carlton hotel and Sinema posted a photo seemingly in the hotel celebrating her completion of the Boston Marathon, according to the Daily Beast.
Campaign finance experts told the publication that these expenses may technically be within the letter of the law, but are pushing the limits of what could be considered legal.
“Tacking some personal activities on to a fundraising trip is generally going to be fine,” Brendan Fischer, deputy executive director of watchdog group Documented, said to the Daily Beast. “But this appears to be the inverse — tacking fundraisers on to personal trips to justify the use of campaign funds to cover the costs.”
The complaint alleges that, because Sinema appeared to have taken advantage of a seeming loophole in campaign finance laws, her activities warrant investigation. On the Boston trip, the group says that the senator “scheduled and took the trip primarily for the purpose of attending and participating in the Boston Marathon,” and it is unlikely that the trip was primarily for fundraising “given the physical demands of running in a marathon.” The complaint says that there are at least five other similar potential violations from the senator.
“To be clear: attaching incidental campaign meetings to a trip that was scheduled for the primary purpose of carrying out a personal hobby does not transform the entire trip into a legitimate campaign activity,” the complaint says.
Meanwhile, the complaint details multiple trips to Europe that Sinema appeared to have taken for personal reasons. Since 2021, it says, she has spent more than $20,000 in campaign funds on trips abroad, including a shopping trip to Paris in which she stayed at a luxury hotel. “Travel to Paris, Barcelona, and London is not an integral part of running for reelection to the United States Senate,” the complaint states.
It’s unclear if the FEC will act on the complaint. The agency is currently in a partisan deadlock and is consistently ineffective, as former FEC commissioners have said.
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