sen. Kyrsten Sinema Took Wall Street Money While Killing Investor Taxes

sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona Democrat who single-handedly thwarted her party’s longtime goal of raising taxes on wealthy investors, received nearly $1 million in the past year from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose taxes are said to be risen under the plan.

For years, Democrats have promised to raise taxes on such investors, who pay a significantly lower rate on their earnings than regular employees. But just as they reached that goal last week, Sinema forced a series of changes to her party’s $740 billion spending package for the election year, eliminating a proposed tax increase on private equity income and a $35 billion exemption. was obtained. save much of the industry from a separate tax hike that other big companies now have to pay.

The bill, with Sinema’s amendments intact, was finally approved by Congress on Friday and is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden next week.

Sinema has long associated with the interests of private equity, hedge funds and venture capital, helping her rake in at least $1.5 million in campaign contributions since she was elected to the House a decade ago. But the $983,000 she’s raised since last summer more than doubled what the industry donated to her during all of her previous years in Congress combined, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance disclosures.

The donations, which make Sinema one of the industry’s largest beneficiaries in Congress, are a reminder of how high-powered lobbying campaigns can dramatically affect how legislation is made. They also emphasize a degree of political risk to Sinema, whose brazen defense of the sector’s favorable tax treatment is considered indefensible by many in her party.

“From their point of view, it’s a million dollars very well spent,” said Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal-oriented think tank. “It’s quite rare to see such an immediate return on investment. So I think I would congratulate them.”

PHOTOS: Sinema Took Wall Street Money While Killing Investor Tax

Sinema’s office refused to make her available for an interview. Hannah Hurley, a spokesperson for Sinema, acknowledged that the senator shares some of the industry’s views on taxes, but rejected any suggestion that the donations influenced her thinking.

“Senator Sinema makes every decision based on one criterion: what’s best for Arizona,” Hurley said in a statement. “She has been clear and consistent for over a year that she will only support tax reforms and income options that support Arizona’s economic growth and competitiveness.”

The American Investment Council, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of private equity, also defended their push to overturn the tax provisions.

“Our team has helped members of Congress from both sides of the aisle understand how private equity directly employs employees and supports small businesses in their communities,” said Drew Maloney, the organization’s CEO and president, in a statement. .

Sinema’s defense of the tax provisions is in stark contrast to her background as a Green Party activist and self-proclaimed “Prada socialist” who once compared accepting campaign money to “bribery” and later called for “big corporations and the rich to do their fair share.” Pay’. share” shortly before launching its first campaign for Congress in 2012.

Since then, she’s been much more magnanimous, praising private equity from the House floor in 2016 for providing “billions of dollars a year to Main Street companies” and later interning at a boutique winery owned by a private equity magnate in North America. California during the 2020 congressional recess.

The industry’s substantial contributions to Sinema go back to last summer. That’s when she first made it clear that she would not support an interest rate tax hike, as well as other corporate and corporate tax hikes, included in a previous iteration of Biden’s agenda.

In September alone, Sinema collected $47,100 in contributions from 16 senior officials at private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe during a two-week period in September, data shows. Employees and executives of KKR, another private equity giant, contributed $44,100 to Sinema over a two-month period at the end of 2021.

In some cases, the families of private equity managers participated. David Belluck, a partner at Riverside Partners, made a maximum contribution of $5,800 to Sinema one day in late June. So did three of his school-age children, with the family donating $23,200 together, data shows.

“In general, I support the centrist Democrats and her seat is important to retain a majority of the Democratic Senate,” Belluck said, adding that his family has known Sinema since her election to Congress. “She and I never discussed the private equity tax.”

The industry donations coincide with a $26 million lobbying effort led by the investment firm Blackstone, which culminated on the Senate floor last weekend.

By the time the bill was up for discussion in a marathon run of votes, Sinema had already forced Democrats to waive their interest rate hike.

“Senator Sinema said she would not vote for the bill… unless we scrap it,” Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters last week. “We had no choice.”

But after private equity lobbyists discovered a provision in the bill that would have subjected many of them to a separate 15% corporate tax, they urged Sinema and other center Democrats for change, according to emails and four people with direct knowledge of the bill. the case requesting anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

“Given the groundbreaking nature of this development, we need as many offices as possible that address the concerns of Leader Schumer’s office,” Blackstone lobbyist Ryan McConaghy wrote in an email obtained by the AP on Saturday afternoon, stating suggested language for changing the account. “Would you and your boss sound the alarm and voice your concerns to Schumer and the team?”

McConaghy did not respond to a request for comment.

Sinema worked with Republicans on an amendment that removed the corporate tax increase provisions from the bill, which a handful of vulnerable Democrats also voted for.

“Since serving in Congress, Kyrsten has consistently supported pro-growth policies that encourage job creation across Arizona. Its views on tax policy and its focus on growing Arizona’s economy and competitiveness have long been known and well-known,” said Hurley, Sinema’s spokesperson.

But many in her party disagree. They say the favorable treatment does little to boost the economy overall and argue that there is little convincing evidence to suggest that the tax breaks are enjoyed outside of some of the wealthiest investors.

Some of Sinema’s donors are arguing.

Blackstone, a major source of campaign contributions, owns large tracts of real estate in its home state of Sinema, Arizona. The company was condemned in 2019 by experts at the United Nations, who said Blackstone’s financial model was responsible for a “financialization of housing” that has pushed up rents and housing costs, “leaving low-income and increasingly middle-income people out of their homes.” houses evicted.”

Blackstone employee executives and their family members have given Sinema $44,000 since 2018, data shows.

In a statement, Blackstone called the UN experts’ allegations “false and misleading” and said all employee contributions are “strictly personal”. The company added that it was “incredibly proud of its investment in housing”.

Another major financial services donor is Centerbridge Partners, a New York-based company that buys up the debt of ailing governments and corporations and often uses hard-hitting tactics to extract value. Since 2017, Sinema has raised at least $29,000 from donors associated with the company, including co-founder Mark Gallogly and his wife, Elizabeth Strickler, data shows.

In 2012, Centerbridge Partners bought Arizona-based restaurant chain PF Chang’s for approximately $1 billion. After saddled the struggling company with $675 million in debt, they sold it to another private equity group in 2019, according to Bloomberg News. The company received a $10 million loan for coronavirus relief to cover payroll, but cut jobs and closed locations as it struggled with the pandemic.

Centerbridge Partners was also part of a consortium of hedge funds that helped usher in an era of austerity in Puerto Rico after buying up billions of dollars of the island government’s $72 billion debt — and pursuing legal action to collect. A subsidiary of Centerbridge Partners was among a group of creditors that repeatedly sued one of the US-based pension funds. In a 2016 lawsuit, the group of creditors asked a judge to collect money from a Puerto Rican pension fund to collect.

A Centerbridge representative was unable to comment immediately on Friday.

Liberal activists in Arizona say they plan to make Sinema’s reliance on donations from wealthy investors a campaign issue when she is re-elected in 2024.

“There are many ways to win, but there is no universe where it is politically smart to fight for favorable tax treatment for the richest people in the country,” said Emily Kirkland, a political adviser who works for progressive candidates. “It’s definitely going to be a powerful problem.”

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