LGBTQ POLITICS - The largely invisible senator has paid her friend's sister more than $300,000 since 2021.
If you had to pick the two weirdest Democrats in Congress in 2020, it would have to have been Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (R) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I). Gabbard hated American foreign policy and even visited bloody Syrian Dictator President Bashar al-Assad when everyone else was condemning him. Sinema spent her time avoiding her constituents and making life miserable for her fellow Democrats.
So it’s no surprise that the two were buddies, even though Gabbard used to spend her time complaining about “homosexual extremists.”
What is surprising is to learn, according to a Daily Beast report, is that Sinema has paid Gabbard’s sister Vrindivan Bellord more than $300,000 in both campaign and congressional funds for security since late 2021. She was also reimbursed $240,000 for expenses like lodging, meals, and airfare. Moreover, Sinema appears to be Bellord’s sole client.
It’s not that Bellord isn’t qualified to run a security firm. She’s a former U.S. marshall who basically served as her sister’s security detail during Tulsi’s quixotic 2020 presidential campaign. (She attracted some attention then complaining that MSNBC gave more air time to Elizabeth Warren during a debate than to Tulsi.)
What is unusual, according to the experts that The Daily Beast consulted, is the nature of the relationship between Sinema and her security expert. Whenever you hire the family member of a friend, it raises ethical concerns. (Vrindavan reportedly lived with Tulsi in D.C. for a while, so it’s possible that Sinema already knew her.) The dollar amounts involved compound these possible issues.
Saurav Ghosh, a former campaign finance attorney now at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said the dollar amount was “eye-opening” and said that Bellord having just one client — Sinema — was “one of the biggest red flags.” Another expert said it was really unusual to be paying someone with both campaign funds and congressional staffing funds.
Bellord seems happy with the arrangement, and she may be getting even more money than is captured in the filings that The Daily Beast reported. The site noted that Sinema’s personal political action committee paid $95 to a “fat bike” tour company in Park City, Utah. On her Instagram account just days before the tour, Bellord posted a photo showing two bikes — with fat wheels — in snowy mountain surroundings. Responding to a comment from Gabbard, Bellord said, “thanks to our friend,” with a winky-face emoji. (Bellord’s Instagram account has since been taken private.)
In a nice twist, Bellord’s work for Sinema began shortly after the senator hid in a bathroom after activists tried to confront her for ongoing sabotage of President Biden’s agenda. Apparently, Sinema felt she needed protection from her constituents. She has since solved this issue by being completely invisible to them, preferring the company of lobbyists instead.
Meanwhile, Gabbard has left Congress and spends her time fulminating on Fox News, where she recently compared Joe Biden to Hitler. Perhaps she’s blazing a trail for her friend to follow post-Congress.
(John Gallagher has been covering LGBTQ issues since 1991. He was formerly a senior news editor and correspondent at The Advocate. He is co-author of Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 1990s. This article was featured on LGBTQ NATION.)