Serving in the US Senate is a pretty good gig if you can get it. You’re paid $174,000 a year, only have to show up around 200 days and you almost always snag an even better-compensated private sector gig when you retire or lose an election.
For all these perks, all you have to do is occasionally give a thumbs up or down on matters of serious import. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema seems to enjoy all of those aspects of her job besides the last one.
Sinema, and her fellow conservative lawmaker Joe Manchin, remain the two Democrat holdouts against passing Joe Biden’s would-be sweeping Build Back Better agenda. The duo are effectively holding an array of social spending proposals in limbo – including the parts that would stop people dying, give under-fives a better start in life and meaningfully address climate change. Aid for real people across the country, and the planet itself, is being forestalled.
Manchin has been direct in the specifics of his opposition, but Sinema has said she doesn’t want to make public what her opposition to the bill is. She’s far from a private person though – here’s how she seems to prefer spending her time besides doing what her voters ostensibly sent her to Washington to do.
Earlier this year it was reported by Business Insider that Sinema has spent a couple of weeks interning at the Three Sticks winery in Sonoma, California. For her work at the facility she was paid $1,117.40. Sinema’s appreciation for wine has been well documented on her social media accounts, so it’s possible it’s just a coincidence that the owner of the winery in question is William S Price III, a cofounder of TPG Capital, one of the biggest private equity firms in the world, which has spent more than $3m lobbying politicians in the past couple of years.
Not that type of running. Sinema has spent the past year training for long-distance runs. An avid athlete, she has competed in the Boston Marathon before, but had to pull out of the contest this month after injuring herself in another race in Washington over the summer.
This week it was reported that Sinema has traveled to Europe for a fundraising jag. It was unclear whether she, in addition to participating in events to raise money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was holding private fundraising events of her own. Sinema’s itinerary for the trip remains a secret but she is believed to be visiting Paris and London.
As Democrats scrambled to find a solution to the budget impasse earlier this month, Sinema left Washington abruptly on a Friday for what she said was a medical appointment. Also on the agenda that weekend was a donor’s retreat at a luxury spa in Phoenix. That same week, Sinema held another fundraising meeting with industry groups opposed to Biden’s agenda. During the the 45-minute meeting the groups were invited to write checks for $1,000 to $5,800 to her election fund. All told, Sinema has received at least $750,000 from pharmaceutical interests and $920,000 from other industry lobbies.
Sinema has been teaching at Arizona State University since 2003, holding between two and three courses a semester. Among her recurring classes is one called Developing Grants and Fundraising. As the course description explains, the class is designed to teach students “how to cultivate donors” through “opportunistic fundraising.”