Powerful Krysten Sinema Donors Threaten Bail Over Voting Rights

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A full 70 Democratic donors who’ve collectively given millions of dollars in support of the campaigns of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other Democratic Senate contenders informed the Arizona Senator in a letter this week that they’d refuse to support her going forward if she persisted with her support of the Senate’s filibuster rules. Sinema’s support of these filibuster provisions helped doom a push to get new voting rights protections passed this week. At present, those Senate rules demand that at least 60 Senators agree before moving forward with most bills, including those dealing with voting rights. The current party breakdown means that the chamber’s Republican minority can therefore block action on these urgent pieces of legislation.

This week, Democrats put forward a proposed change to the filibuster rules that would have made it so that members of the minority wishing to stop the voting rights proposals from going forward would need to consistently talk in order to keep up their opposition. Once they stopped, the process would move to a final vote. Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democratic Senators to vote against this proposal.

In that letter, the donors who’d directly given to Sinema’s campaign also asked for their 2018 donations to be refunded in the event that she kept up her filibuster support. The overall list of signatories included business executive Merle Chambers, billionaire Vincent Ryan, philanthropist Trey Beck, and former Planned Parenthood Federation of America board chair Naomi Aberly, among others, and the letter to Sinema read, in part, as follows:

‘We are terrified about our prospects as a democracy if we do not pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis VRA Act. We appreciate your support of these bills, but they will die without your action on Senate rules. Bipartisanship works only if it is reciprocal. Republicans are gutting our electoral system in state capitals with no federal check on them. This is life and death important to us.’

As for the specific, future ramifications for Sinema’s campaign, they pointedly added as follows:

‘We must draw a line. We cannot in good conscience support you if you refuse to use your office to protect our fundamental rights to vote, and we will be obliged to back alternatives for your seat who will do the right thing for our country. Further, we are in agreement that, should your ultimate decision be to prioritize the veneer of bipartisanship, in the form of an arcane senate rule, over the voting rights that John Lewis put his life on the line to defend, your campaign should return each of our 2018 Senate campaign donations.’

Sinema has also faced steep opposition from others who might otherwise be in her corner. Nathalie Rayes, who serves as president of the Latino Victory Fund, insisted that observers are “done with political theater and this waste of time and energy, and senators trying to hurt communities of color,” pointedly adding: “Impeding democracy is simply unacceptable, and stopping Latinos [from getting] to the polls and [casting] their votes is just unacceptable.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who seemingly indicated this week that he’d support primary challengers to Manchin and Sinema — took a similar stance, characterizing the West Virginia and Arizona Senators as “people who I think have undermined the President of the United States. They have forced us to go through five months of discussions which have gotten absolutely nowhere.”