Kyrsten Sinema Decides To Retire With Millions In Her Campaign Account. What Could Happen To That Money?

Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Tuesday that she would not be seeking reelection, leaving over $10.5 million worth of unspent funds in her campaign account, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.

FEC filings show that Sinema raised just under $3 million through her Senate committee in 2023, a relatively low number for an incumbent senator that fueled rumors she wouldn’t seek another term in Congress. Now that Sinema is officially out, there are only a handful of legal avenues the FEC outlines available for her to offload what remains in her campaign war chest, such as pouring money into other campaigns or donating it to charity.

Sinema can use her left-over Senate funds to “make charitable donations, transfer funds to a political party and make contributions to state or local candidates,” an FEC spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The spokesperson also said that she could donate funds to federal candidates.

The Arizona senator could also use her remaining Senate cash to finance a run for another office, according to the FEC. If Sinema were to run for president as an independent, for instance, she could transfer her remaining campaign funds to a new presidential committee.

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pulled a similar maneuver in 2020 during his presidential campaign, transferring $12.7 million from his author authorized campaign committees to his presidential committee.

“Federal officeholders can transfer campaign funds to run for another office as long as they are not running for more than one office simultaneously,” Bruce Oppenheimer, a professor emeritus of political science at Vanderbilt University, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “If Sinema were to decide to run for president, she could transfer the money from her Senate campaign account.”

No Labels, a political organization seeking to get ballot access in all 50 states for a potential centrist unity ticket, could be an option for Sinema. Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and former Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, two of the primary candidates No Labels was reportedly courting, have both ruled out a run for the presidency.

If Sinema does not run for president, there are other ways she can use her remaining Senate campaign funds to influence elections.

Sinema could, for instance, give her remaining campaign funds to the national, state or local party of her choice, according to the FEC. She could also make donations of up to $2,000 to federal candidates or donations to state or local candidates in accordance with relevant contribution laws, per the FEC.

If Sinema decided to become a lobbyist, she could use her campaign funds “to make campaign contributions within federal limits,” Oppenheimer told the DCNF.

Options outside of politics also exist for Sinema to get rid of her remaining cash. The outgoing senator could, for instance, choose to donate remaining campaign funds to charity, according to FEC regulations.

Sinema has recently passed on some of her campaign funds to charity, giving $3,075 to the Boys and Girls Club of Arizona on Dec. 20, FEC records show.

She could also use her remaining funds to help cover the costs of leaving office for a period of up to six months after her term is up, an FEC spokesperson told the DCNF. Campaign funds can cover moving fees, payments to committee staff and gifts “of nominal value” to people outside of Sinema’s family during this period.

Sinema can not use her remaining campaign funds for anything constituting “personal use,” according to the FEC. This would include all expenses that would exist in the absence of a campaign, such as non-campaign-related food, clothing or entertainment purchases.

Sinema was recently accused of using campaign funds for personal purposes.

The Arizona senator spent $3,028 on vehicles in London and Paris during the final quarter of 2023, which campaign experts said may have constituted personal use as there were no other affiliated costs signifying campaign activities abroad, according to the New York Post.

Sinema’s PAC doled out more than $10,000 to pay for her stays at luxury European hotels and $6,000 across several West Coast wineries, according to The Daily Beast. Sinema has also scheduled donor meetings in places where she was planning to run marathons and triathlons, allowing her to use campaign funds to cover travel and lodging.

Sinema’s office and No Labels did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

Robert Schmad on March 6, 2024

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