Kyrsten Sinema is from Tucson, but she’s far more at home on K Street.
The Democratic nominee for Senate has repeatedly expressed her disdain for her fellow Arizonans, raising the question why she wants to represent them at all. But that’s simple: She feels much more at home in D.C., among the lobbyists who fund her campaign and profit from her policies.
Sinema has raised much more money from donors in the District of Columbia ($2.5 million) than from donors in Arizona ($2 million). This isn’t normal, even by Washington standards. Her Republican opponent, Rep. Martha McSally, has 10 times as much in donations from Arizona as from D.C.
Sinema, whose radical past has been dragged out during this campaign, has earned a reputation as a “moderate” who, in the words of the Washington Post, is “good at raising money.” Both of those phrases are code words for she is an avid supporter of corporate welfare, and Big Business loves her for it.
Sinema has certainly enjoyed a cash advantage, outraising her Republican opponent $19 million to $16 million, according to mid-October numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics. Sinema has a higher portion of her money from large donations than does McSally and has twice as much of her cash from PACs.
PACs from the “Securities & Investment” industry have given more than $150,000 to Sinema’s campaign, compared to $5,000 to her Republican opponent. PACs for commercial banks have kicked in another $134,000 to get Sinema into the Senate and insurance industry PACs nearly $170,000.
The Democrat has raised nearly $300,000 from lobbyists, easily more than any nonincumbent Senate candidate.
Why do lobbyists and bankers love her so? Mostly it’s because Sinema fights hard to make sure big government is working to maximize their profits.
Consider Sinema’s argument against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. She opposed it for “eliminating … pro-business deductions.” Sinema explicitly referred to the mortgage-interest deduction twice, implying that the bill eliminated those deductions. In truth, the bill trimmed the mortgage deduction only on those with mortgages of more than $750,000. About 93 percent of all Arizona homes are worth less than $500,000, meaning only the very wealthiest Arizonans would lose any portion of their mortgage deduction.
But then, the real reason mortgage bankers and realtors didn't like the TCJA is that it makes the mortgage deduction a moot point for millions of Arizonans. TCJA doubled the standard deduction, meaning a vast majority of taxpayers will now get a bigger deduction by not itemizing.
That's why the National Association of Realtors lobbied hard against a tax cut for their customers. With higher tax rates and and a smaller standard deduction, more people would turn to the tax shelter of the mortgage deduction. If your business model involves offering people a safe harbor from taxes, you don’t want lower taxes or more safe harbors.
Sinema fought for the realtors and against Arizona's taxpayers (disdain for whom she has repeatedly shown). Those efforts may explain why the Realtors have spent $34,000 on ads supporting her Senate bid — the most they’ve spent on any Senate race this fall.
In the House, one of Sinema’s core crusades was saving and expanding the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Ex-Im is a corporate welfare agency that extends taxpayer-backed financing to foreign buyers of U.S. goods. House and Senate conservatives have kept Ex-Im hobbled since mid-2015, but Sinema has fought tooth and nail to restore the agency’s ability to subsidize U.S. exporters.
The banks that back her appreciate that. Ex-Im is “free money” for big banks who get the federal guarantees for their loans to the likes of Air China.
In general, she’s for more spending, more subsidies, higher taxes, and more special-interest tax breaks. That’s great news for lobbyists and the businesses that can hire them.
It’s no wonder then, that Sinema leads her league in lobbyist donations. It’s no wonder she’s raised more from D.C. than from Arizona.
And it’s no wonder Sinema wants to serve in the Senate—she’ll be among her people on K Street.