Sinema’s Donations From Cárdenas Scrutinized

Arizona Senate candidate’s opponents seize on another contribution from someone touched by scandal

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 8, 2018 at 10:06am

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is back under the microscope for her handling of campaign contributions from donors with checkered legal and ethical pasts.

This time, it’s the $11,000 the Arizona Democrat has accepted since 2012 from another House colleague, California Rep. Tony Cárdenas.

Cárdenas is the defendant in a lawsuit filed in April suggesting he drugged and sexually molested a 16-year-old girl back in 2007.

Cárdenas has strongly denied the allegations after confirming that he is in fact the unnamed defendant in the lawsuit.  The accusations underlying the lawsuit are “100 percent categorically untrue,” his lawyer said in a statement last week, adding that the plaintiff in the lawsuit is the daughter of a former employee who could still have an ax to grind.

“This case is still moving through the court system and it would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing litigation,” a spokesman for Sinema’s senatorial campaign, James Owens, told The Arizona Republic in a statement Monday.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she has requested that the House Ethics Committee look into the allegations against Cárdenas.

At the end of the first filing quarter of 2018, Sinema had $6.8 million cash on hand — nearly tripling the war chest of any of the other candidates running to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake this fall, per the Federal Elections Commission database.

Cárdenas most recently donated to Sinema’s campaign last December, a $1,000 check, according to his FEC files. In the previous two cycles, Cárdenas has given Sinema’s campaigns $4,000 each.

It isn’t the first time Sinema has received scrutiny for accepting campaign cash from suspect donors.

Members and candidates looking to distance themselves from sketchy donors often give that money to charity. Sinema is no different.

Last winter, Sinema’s campaign found new recipients for roughly $53,000 she had taken in from people with ties to Backpage.com, many of whom are under criminal investigation for conspiring to facilitate prostitution through the website, The Republic reported.

And in November, Sinema and a closely affiliated PAC purged itself of roughly $34,000 it had received from Ed Buck, a longtime Democratic donor. A male escort died from a drug overdose in Buck’s California home earlier in the year.

The Arizona GOP has also received its fair share of money from people accused of sexual improprieties, including more than $14,000 since 2004 from Las Vegas casino magnate and former Republican National Committee finance chairman Steve Wynn.

The state GOP has not purged itself of Wynn’s money.