Sinema’s shift: ‘Prada socialist’ to corporate donor magnet

WASHINGTON (AP) – Twenty years ago, an activist from the Green Party running for city council in Phoenix, named Kyrsten Sinema …

WASHINGTON (AP) – Twenty years ago, an activist from the Green Party running for city council in Phoenix, named Kyrsten Sinema, compared raising money from the “bribe” campaign.

Now a first-time senator from Arizona, she no longer has such concerns.

Sinema was once a self-proclaimed “Prada Socialist” who was branded “too extreme” by the Arizona Democratic Party, and Sinema has found new power as a centrist in a 50-50 Senate where there are no votes left, forcing President Joe Biden to reduce his agenda. and other democratic ambitions.

Her great authority highlights a senator’s ability to take advantage of his party’s narrow grip on the chamber and bend the will of the majority. That skill is also one reason why corporate interests eager to influence the Democrats’ now-1.85 trillion package of social and climate initiatives have been quick to give her financial support.

Through months of exhaustive negotiations, Sinema has provided only a limited explanation of opposing policies that Democrats have been campaigning for for years, which has angered many of her colleagues.

But her actions have also won her new allies, making Sinema a magnet for campaign donations from powerful interests with millions at stake in how the legislation turns out.

Sinema was particularly opposed to two parts of Biden’s original proposal that have broad public support: an increase in corporate and wealthy tax rates and an expansive plan that would have significantly reduced the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.

The concessions she helped win are in line with the interests of many of her donors, who have made Sinema the Senate’s No. 3 recipient of money – nearly $ 500,000 – this year from the pharmaceutical and financial services sectors, according to OpenSecrets, a non- party political group that tracks money in politics.

Sinema’s office declined to make her available for an interview. In a statement, her office said she has consistently supported “economic policies for growth” and “protection of medical innovation.” They disputed the relevance of comments that Sinema made early in her political career in a race she lost.

“Senator Sinema makes decisions based on one consideration: what’s best for Arizona,” said spokesman John LaBombard.

But her embrace of influential donors she once rejected confuses many in her party.

“It creates a perception of a conflict of interest and a perception that industry groups have influence,” the rep said. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Who co-chaired the Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2020. “How does she explain the role of all these contributions?”

A former social worker who served in Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign in 2000, Sinema did not seek office as a Democrat until after two failed Arizona bids as progressive or independent.

After winning a seat in Arizona House in 2004, her political personality began to change. Gradually, Sinema restored itself as a moderate, and Sinema rose through the Democratic minority of the Legislature while positioning itself for higher offices as the state went from a Republican stronghold to an election campaign site.

Since her election to the U.S. House in 2012, the candidate who once ravaged the “Almighty Dollar” of capitalism has welcomed the contributions of industry groups and corporate policy action committees. She has raised at least $ 3 million from CEOs, business leaders, investors, lobbyists and financial sector employees, the campaign’s financial records show.

Sinema’s bulging campaign account comes as many in her party have rejected such contributions, condemning them as evidence of deep-seated corruption in Washington.

While Sinema is hardly alone in raising money from special interests during a major legislative battle, the remarkable extent of Sinema’s fundraising winds fall between April and September. Her objections to Biden’s legislation then gave her massive influence on the future of his bill. The approximately $ 3 million she collected during that period is the best money draw of her career outside of the 2018 election, when she was first on the ballot for the U.S. Senate.

But there were signs that she had been attracted to business interests in the past.

Last year, she helped usher in a two-part caucus to raise “awareness of the benefits of personalized medicine,” an expensive form of precision treatment for diseases that are difficult to cure. Her current opposition to corporate and high-wage tax increases comes after she voted against President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in 2017, which lowered corporate interest rates to its current 21 percent while giving a high-wage rebate.

Among the donors:

Leaders and a PAC for drugmaker Amgen have donated at least $ 21,500 by 2021, making Sinema only second only to House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California to receive contributions from the company this year. Nearly all of Amgen’s donations were collected in late June as Democrats pushed for legislation that would have curtailed drug companies’ earnings by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Sinema’s opposition was instrumental in getting lawmakers to pursue a scaled-down version that is now making its way into the House.

The company’s CEO Robert Bradway gave Sinema $ 5,000; two company lobbyists donated an additional $ 3,000.

-Sinema has received at least $ 27,000 this year from major drug manufacturers including Takeda, GlaxoSmithKline, Genentech and Eli Lilly. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the leading trade organization representing drug manufacturers, has been a major source of funding for a group running ads praising Sinema as “independent and effective for Arizona,” records show.

Twelve executives at investment bank Goldman Sachs have donated $ 37,000 to Sinema since May. That includes Goldman President John Waldron, who made a donation of a maximum of $ 5,800 in August. Sinema’s office said that although it does not support an increase in corporation tax, it supports the establishment of a corporation minimum tax so that companies can not completely avoid paying their fair share, which is now included in Biden’s plan.

– Executives, executives and a corporate PAC for Ryan LLC, a global tax consulting firm, poured over $ 72,000 into Sinema’s campaign account in late August and September. That made Ryan, whose employees and PAC had not previously given to Sinema, one of her biggest corporate donors. The Texas-based company advertises itself as “relieving our customers of the burden of being overtaxed.” In August, USA Today reported that company officials were caught in an FBI investigation into whether they pressured the administration of Governor Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., To issue millions of dollars in tax refunds to a Ryan client.

There have also been checks in from Jimmy Haslam III, a longtime Republican donor and owner of the Cleveland Browns, and his wife, Susan, who donated $ 8,700 to Sinema in June and September; Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, twins who run a private equity firm and are perhaps best known for successfully suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who each gave $ 5,800 apiece in July; and Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire Minnesota television and radio station mogul who has donated millions of dollars to the GOP cases, who donated $ 2,900 in September.

Sinema has angered her colleagues in Congress, who say she blocked proposals that almost all Democratic lawmakers support.

“It would be a tragedy for us not to rectify the unfair corporate tax system so that companies and individuals pay their fair share,” the rep said. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, President of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who played a major role in negotiating the bill.

Sanders focused on Sinema’s support for the pharmaceutical industry’s priorities.

“It is beyond comprehension that there is a member of the US Congress who is not prepared to vote to ensure that we lower the cost of prescription drugs,” he said last month. He added that he hoped Sinema “does what the people of Arizona want.”

Some longtime financiers from the Democratic Party have also become frustrated with her.

“With all the excitement in the party, people have long memories,” said Michael Smith, a Los Angeles donor whose partner, James Costos, served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Spain.

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