‘Prada socialism’ to the corporate giver magnet

‘Prada socialism’ to the corporate giver magnet

Washington Twenty years ago, a Green Party activist running for Phoenix City Council named Kirsten Senema likened campaign money to “bribery.”

Now a senator from Arizona for the first time, she no longer had such concern.

Once modeled on “Prada socialism” that the Arizona Democratic Party called “too extreme,” Cinema has found new strength as a centrist in the 50-50 Senate where there are no votes to spare, forcing President Joe Biden to scale back his agenda and other Democratic ambitions. .

Her immense power highlights the ability of a senator to exploit her party’s narrow control of the House of Representatives and bend the will of the majority. This ingenuity is also a reason for corporate interests eager to sway Democrats’ currently $1.85 trillion package of social and climate initiatives to provide financial support.

Throughout months of drained negotiations, Cinema has offered a limited explanation of the opposition policies Democrats have waged over the years, to the ire of many of her colleagues.


But her actions have won her new allies, too, making Sinema a magnet for electoral donations from powerful stakeholders with millions at stake in how the legislation turns out.

Sinema particularly opposed two parts of Biden’s initial proposal that enjoy broad public support: higher tax rates for corporations and the wealthy, and an expanded plan that would dramatically reduce the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.

The perks she helped win align with the interests of several of the donors who made Sinema the No. 3 recipient of money in the Senate — nearly $500,000 — this year from the pharmaceutical and financial services sectors, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

The cinema office refused to make her available for an interview. In a statement, her office said she has consistently supported “growth-friendly economic policies” and “protecting medical innovation.” They questioned the relevance of comments Sinema made early in her political career in a race she lost.


“Senator Cinema makes decisions based on one consideration: what is best for Arizona,” said spokesman John Labombard.

However, her embrace of the influential donors she once rejected baffles many in her party.

“It creates a perception of conflicts of interest and a perception of industry groups with influence,” said Representative Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who was the co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. “How would you explain the role of all these contributions?”

A former social worker who served in Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign for the Green Party, Cinema sought Democratic office only after a failed bid in Arizona as a progressive or independent candidate.

After winning seats at the Arizona House in 2004, her political personality began to transform. Gradually rearranging itself to become a moderate, Cinema has ascended through the Democratic minority in the legislature while positioning itself in a higher position as the state transitioned from a Republican bastion to an electoral battleground.


Since her election in 2012 to the US House of Representatives, the candidate who once criticized capitalism’s “mighty dollar” has welcomed contributions from industry groups and corporate political action committees. It has raised at least $3 million from CEOs and corporate executives, investors, lobbyists and financial professionals, according to campaign finance records.

Cinema’s bloated campaign account comes as many in her party have rejected such contributions, denouncing them as evidence of deep-rooted corruption in Washington.

While Sinema is not alone in raising money from special interests during a major legislative battle, what is notable is the surprising scope of fundraising for a cinema between April and September. Then her objections to Biden’s legislation gave her tremendous leverage over the future of his bill. The nearly $3 million she raised during that period is the best cash return of her career outside of the 2018 election, when she was first on the ballot for the US Senate.


But there were signs of her being drawn to commercial interests earlier.

Last year, I helped start a bipartisan caucus to raise “awareness of the benefits of personalized medicine,” an expensive form of precision medicine for hard-to-treat illnesses. Her current opposition to tax increases on corporations and high-income earners comes after she voted in 2017 against President Donald Trump’s tax cut legislation, which lowered the corporation’s rate to 21 percent, currently with a rebate for high-income earners.

Among the donors:

CEOs and PACs provided Amgen drug company with at least $21,500 in 2021, making Sinema second only to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California in receiving contributions from the company this year. Almost all of Amgen’s donations were pooled in late June, when Democrats were pushing through legislation that would slash drug companies’ profits by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Cinema’s opposition has been instrumental in prompting lawmakers to pursue a reduced version that is now advancing in the House of Representatives. The new plan will allow Medicare to negotiate the price of about 100 drugs within a few years, while limiting monthly insulin payments to $35 for many.


The company’s CEO, Robert Bradway, gave $5,000 to Sinema; Two lobbyists for the company offered an additional $3,000.

Cinemas received at least $27,000 this year from major drug companies including Takeda, GlaxoSmithKline, Genentech and Eli Lilly. Records show that Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the prominent trade organization representing drugmakers, has been a major source of funding for a group running ads praising Sinema as “independent and efficient for Arizona.”

Twelve executives at investment bank Goldman Sachs have donated $37,000 to Sinema since May. That includes Goldman’s president, John Waldron, who donated a maximum of $5,800 in August. Sinema’s office said that while it does not support raising corporate taxes, it does support creating a minimum corporate tax so that companies cannot completely avoid paying their fair share, which is now included in Biden’s plan.


Executives, directors and PAC of Ryan LLC, a global tax advisory firm, pumped more than $72,000 into Sinema’s campaign account in late August and September. This has made Ryan, whose employees and PAC have never made a donation to Sinema, one of its largest corporate donors. The Texas-based company advertises itself as “liberating our customers from the burden of burnout.” In August, USA Today reported that company officials were involved in an FBI investigation into whether they pressured the administration of Governor Doug Ducey, R. Ariz. , to issue millions of dollars in tax refunds to Ryan’s client.

Checks also arrived from Jimmy Hassan III, a longtime Republican benefactor and owner of the Cleveland Browns, and his wife Susan, who gave $8,700 to a cinema in June and September. Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, twins who run a private equity firm and may be best known for suing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who gave them $5,800 each in July; and Stanley Hubbard, the Minnesota television and radio billionaire who has given millions of dollars to GOP causes, donated $2,900 in September.


Senema has infuriated her colleagues in Congress, who say she has blocked proposals backed by nearly all Democratic lawmakers.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she played a key role in negotiating the bill.

Sanders focused on Sinema’s support for pharmaceutical industry priorities.

“It is incomprehensible that there is any member of the US Congress who is not prepared to vote to make sure that we reduce the costs of prescription drugs,” he said last month. He added that he hopes Cinema will do “what Arizona residents want.”

And some of the old Democratic Party funders were frustrated with her.

“With all the tension at the party, people have long memories,” said Michael Smith, a Los Angeles donor, whose partner James Costos served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Spain.

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