Kyrsten Sinema has developed a reputation for taking loads of cash from special interests and then bucking her own party’s agenda. Now, it appears that several companies affiliated with the Direct Selling Association, a multilevel marketing trade group, have been funneling money to the Arizona senator, who just so happens to be the lone Democratic senator standing in the way of her party’s push for labor reform.
Sinema has received donations from the political action committees associated with Alticor, the parent company of beauty company Amway owned by Trump education secretary Betsy DeVos’ family, and Isagenix, which sells personal wellness products. She’s also received cash from Nu Skin Enterprises, USANA Health Sciences, and Herbalife — three more beauty and nutrition companies — as well as Richard Raymond Rogers, the executive chairman for Mary Kay, which specializes in, you guessed it, beauty products. The donations were reported Friday morning by Politico.
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Multilevel marketing is essentially a legal pyramid scheme. Companies get people to sell their products for them, and these sellers typically make money through commission and also through recruiting more sellers. Mulitlevel marketing companies promise they can make sellers rich, but a Federal Trade Commission study found that 99% of them wind up losing money. The level of deception is significant. In 20216, the FTC even forced Herbalife to restructure its operations and pay $200 million for misrepresenting how much money its sellers could make selling supplements.
One of Politico‘s industry sources noted that multilevel marketing companies are terrified of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the piece of labor reform legislation that passed the House of Representatives earlier this year but has since been stalled in the Senate. The PRO Act makes it harder for companies to classify laborers as independent contractors they don’t have to pay a salary or hourly rate, which would make it harder for multilevel marketing companies to get away with leaving their sellers out to dry if they can’t support themselves on commission and recruiting more sellers destined to lose money.
Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Instacart, and other delivery apps whose workforces are comprised of independent contractors are also fierce opponents of the PRO Act and have also spent piles of money trying to lobby lawmakers to stop it in its tracks.
Sinema, however, is the only politician directly receiving money from many of the multilevel marketing companies in question. Politico notes that she’s the only federal lawmaker to receive donations from the PACs representing Isagenix and Nu Skin this year and that USANA Health Sciences has only given to Republicans from Utah, where it’s based, and Sinema.
She’s also the only Senate Democrat — yes, including Joe Manchin — to still oppose the PRO Act.
This isn’t the first instance in which Sinema has appeared to side with special interests stuffing her coffers over the party she was elected under. She’s also been raking in cash from the pharmaceutical and finance industries while holding out on supporting prescription drug pricing reform (although she recently reached an agreement with President Biden) and opposing a tax hike on corporations and the rich.
Sinema may have figured out that holding up her party’s legislative agenda is a good way to attract donations, but it might hamper her ability to stay in Congress. Her approval rating is tanking, and polling suggests she could get primaried when she’s up for reelection in 2024
She’s got a friend in Mitt Romney, at least.
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