Dem consultants angry about raising money for Kyrsten Sinema: "feel sick about it tbh”

Employees at Authentic worry clients will fire them if they find out they're working for embattled senator

By Igor Derysh

Published February 6, 2022 4:29PM (EST)

Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) (Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

Staffers at a Democratic consulting firm working for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., campaign are protesting their affiliation with the senator because they view her as the "antithesis" of the firm's progressive values, according to Politico.

Sinema's re-election campaign has paid nearly $500,000 to Authentic, a digital consulting and fundraising firm that has also worked on Joe Biden's and Kamala Harris' presidential campaigns and for other prominent Democrats like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. But the firm's employees have increasingly complained in internal messages that their work for Sinema, who has blocked progress on top Democratic priorities like voting rights and a $15 minimum wage, could undermine their mission.

"I am doing the devils work," one Authentic employee complained about the firm's work for Sinema in internal union messages reviewed by Politico.

"I feel sick about it tbh," another employee responded.

Frustration among the staff grew last month after Sinema refused to back filibuster changes to pass voting rights legislation.

"What's the point of us supporting a client who is the antithesis of what we claim to stand for," one employee wrote, according to the report. "Ugh, not a good look. I feel like we have clients who would consider leaving us if they realize we work for her," the employee added, complaining that she was effectively "letting Jim Crow 2.0 become a reality" and questioning if she might reconsider if "literally no one in democratic politics wants to work with her anymore."

RELATED: Bernie Sanders, Ro Khanna applaud Arizona Democrats for censure of Kyrsten Sinema

Other staffers worried that they will become known as the team behind Sinema and it "impacts all our reputations regardless if we worked on the account."

Another employee wrote that "it doesn't seem like anyone is comfortable working on her account at this point."

The company's management has tried to defuse tensions, telling employees that Sinema's re-election hopes are important to keeping Democratic control of the Senate, but told staffers that they don't have to work on the Sinema account if they are uncomfortable.

"The Authentic Union views Sen. Sinema's recent actions to block voting rights legislation as an affront to their company's values, which they're proud of and committed to upholding," Taylor Billings of the Campaign Workers Guild, which represents the Authentic union, told Politico.

Sinema's team offered to meet with Authentic CEO Mike Nellis and three employees on Sinema's account to discuss her vote, but the employees reportedly declined.

Despite paying Authentic more than $476,000 since 2020 and $44,500 last quarter, Sinema's small-donor base has dried up amid her blockade of the party's legislative agenda. Just over 2% of the $1.6 million Sinema raised last quarter came from donors who gave $200 or less. By comparison, Change for Arizona 2024, a PAC that plans to back a progressive primary challenger to Sinema, raised $180,000 in small-dollar contributions in that same span.

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Big donors are abandoning her too. EMILY's List, the reproductive rights PAC that was Sinema's biggest backer, said it would not continue to support her if she blocked the voting rights legislation, as did another pro-choice group, NARAL. A group of big-dollar donors who spent millions backing Sinema and other Democrats in 2018 sent a letter to the senator demanding that she refund their contributions and threatening to fund a primary challenger. Other prominent progressive groups have also said they would not support her re-election and may back a primary challenger.

While major liberal groups are abandoning Sinema, she has continued to rake in big donations from corporate interests opposed to the Democrats' agenda, including the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main lobbying arm of Big Pharma; the American Petroleum Institute; and ExxonMobil. Sinema recently courted Republican fossil fuel donors at a Texas fundraiser, according to the Guardian, where she reassured them that she would oppose filibuster changes ahead of her vote. She also reported bringing in big donations from major GOP donors like Nelson Peltz and Ken Langone.

A recent OH Predictive Insights poll found that Sinema has higher approval ratings among Republicans than Democrats by a 44-42 margin.

Democrats both in Arizona and in Washington are increasingly sounding off about Sinema's frequent opposition. The Arizona Democratic Party's executive board last month voted to censure Sinema over her opposition to Senate rule changes to advance voting rights legislation, a move praised by Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., told CNN that multiple senators have urged him to run against Sinema in 2024. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to make Sinema's life in the Senate "as difficult as possible."

Schumer refused to say in an interview with CNN this week whether he would support Sinema against a potential primary challenge. But even longtime Democratic centrists who frequently complain about the party's leftward shift say Sinema has increasingly worn out her welcome in the party.

"She's not going to win a primary against Rep. Ruben Gallego, I'll tell you that damn much," longtime Democratic strategist James Carville told Vox last week. "And I will personally volunteer to help him fundraise because I think we can keep that seat if he runs."

Read more on the senior senator from the Grand Canyon State:

Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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