Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.
The groups want the committee to investigate Sinema for spending $210,000 of her office budget on private flights. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Groups Hoping to Oust Sinema Want Senate Ethics to Probe Her Private Flights

The groups hope the details in the complaint give “voters more reasons why they shouldn’t support Sinema” one signee said.

A coalition of 14 groups in Arizona, organized by a PAC that aims to oust Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee on Wednesday, NOTUS has learned, asking them to look into Sinema’s use of public money for private plane travel.

Specifically, the groups want the committee to investigate Sinema for spending $210,000 of her office budget on private flights in the last three years, over half of which was spent last year.

The flight spending was first reported by the Daily Beast.

The Ethics Committee complaint cites an Aug. 8 charter flight costing $50,000 from Washington, D.C., to Arizona to be part of a “bill signing ceremony” with President Joe Biden. Another included a $9,400 round-trip charter flight from Phoenix to Flagstaff with a stop in Prescott. Prescott is approximately a two-hour drive from Phoenix, and Flagstaff is approximately the same distance from Prescott, a little over two hours.

It also alleges Sinema has “spent lavishly” on hotels and wine in “ethically questionable” ways, citing several news reports on her campaign spending.

Sinema’s office declined to comment.

Many of the organizations that signed onto the complaint are left-leaning, including For All, Arizona’s National Organization of Women chapter, VetsForward, Progress Arizona and Progressive Democrats of America. Sinema, who has yet to announce her plans for reelection, could face Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego in November who has criticized her for voting too conservatively as a senator. Sinema switched parties, from Democrat to independent, in 2022.

While none of the groups have endorsed a specific candidate, many of the letter’s signatories have been public about not wanting Sinema to run for reelection.

Some members of the group hope the letter will spur the committee to scrutinize Sinema’s conduct. Last year, a multitude of groups asked the Ethics Committee to investigate Sinema about the treatment of the office staff. The committee does not have to respond to these complaints and no public action has been announced.

“The main goal of the letter was to get the Ethics Committee to investigate her spending of public money on the private flights … and the things that she is doing that demonstrates that she is not in line with ordinary Arizonans,” Alison Marciniak, deputy executive director of Progress Arizona, told NOTUS.

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Aaron Márquez, executive director at VetsForward, said that it “seems unconscionable” for Sinema to have spent $116,000 in 2023 for private flights. Márquez worked in Gallego’s congressional office in 2015 doing veterans outreach.

Kai Newkirk, founder and president of For All and a co-founder of the Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster, told NOTUS that, among other things, he hopes the complaint gives “voters more reasons why they shouldn’t support Sinema and to make clear to Democrats in Congress and in the Biden administration that they should support the Democratic candidate.”

National Democrats, like Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have held off on endorsing a candidate in Arizona with Sinema still in the Senate.

Tara Kavaler is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.