California Sen.  Dianne Feinstein (D) chairs the Senate Rules Committee, but she’s also
Agencies subcommittee, but
until last year was for six years the top Democrat on
the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (or “Milcon”)
sub-committee, where she may have directed more than $1 billion to companies
controlled by her husband.

If the inferences finally coming out about
what she did while on Milcon prove true,
she may be on the way to morphing from
a respected senior Democrat into another
poster child for congressional corruption.

The problems stem from her subcommittee
activities from 2001 to late 2005, when she
quit.
During that period the public
record suggests she knowingly took part in decisions that eventually put
millions of dollars into her husband’s pocket — the classic conflict of interest
that exploited her position and power to channel money to her husband’s
companies.

In other words, it appears Sen. Feinstein was up to her ears in the same sort of
shenanigans that landed California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R) in the slammer.
Indeed, it may be that the primary difference between the two is basically that
Cunningham was a minor leaguer and a lot dumber than his state’s senior senator.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington,
or CREW, usually focuses on the ethical lapses of Republicans and conservatives, but
even she is appalled at the way Sen. Feinstein has abused her position. Sloan told a
California reporter earlier this month that while ”there are a number of members of
Congress with conflicts of interest … because of the amount of money involved,
Feinstein’s conflict of interest is an order of magnitude greater than those conflicts.”

And the director of the Project on Government Oversight who examined the evidence of
wrongdoing assembled by California writer Peter Byrne told him that
“the paper trail
showing Senator Feinstein’s conflict of interest is irrefutable.”

It may be irrefutable, but she almost got away without anyone even knowing what she
was up to. Her colleagues on the subcommittee, for example, had no reason even to
suspect that she knew what companies might benefit from her decisions because that
information is routinely withheld to avoid favoritism.

    What they didn’t know was that her chief legal
    adviser, who also happened to be a business
    partner of her husband’s and the vice chairman of
    one of the companies involved, was secretly
    forwarding her lists of projects and appropriation
    requests that were coming before the committee
    and in which she and her husband had an interest
    — information that has only come to light recently as a
    result of the efforts of several California investigative
    reporters.

    This adviser insists — apparently with a straight face —
    that he provided the information to Feinstein’s chief of
    staff so that she could recuse herself in cases where
    there might be a conflict. He says that he assumes she
    did so. The public record, however, indicates that she
    went right ahead and fought for these same projects.

During this period the two companies, URS of San Francisco and the Perini
Corporation of Framingham, Mass., were controlled by Feinstein’s husband,
Richard C. Blum, and were awarded a combined total of over $1.5 billion in
government business thanks in large measure to her subcommittee.
That’s a lot
of money even here in Washington.

Interestingly, she left the subcommittee in late 2005 at about the same time her husband
sold his stake in both companies. Their combined net worth increased that year with the
sale of the two companies by some 25 percent, to more than $40 million.

In spite of the blatant appearance of corruption, no major publication has picked up on
the story, the Senate Ethics Committee has reportedly let her slip by, and she is now
chairing the Senate Rules Committee, which puts her in charge of making sure her
colleagues act ethically and avoid the sorts of conflicts of interest with which she is
personally and so obviously familiar.
David Keene has been
involved in the fields of
public policy and politics
since 1968. He worked in
the Nixon White House,
served as southern
regional coordinator for
Ronald Reagan's
presidential campaign,
was national political
director for George H. W.
Bush, and was a senior
political consultant to
Robert Dole.

He is a graduate of
Wisconsin Law School,
was a John F. Kennedy
Fellow at Harvard
University, served as a
member of the Board of
Visitors of the Duke
University Public Policy
School, and has been a
visiting professional
scholar at the Freedom
Forum First Amendment
Center at Vanderbilt
University.

Today, in addition to his
professional duties as
chairman of the American
Conservative Union, he is
also managing associate
with
Carmen Group, a
D.C.-based governmental
affairs firm, and is a
regular columnist for
The Hill (a newspaper
covering Congress).
DAVID KEENE
...Feinstein’s Cardinal Shenanigans

Anyone who knows much about real power in Congress
knows that almost every member of the House and
Senate lusts after a seat on the Appropriations
Committee and hopes one day to achieve the status of
Cardinal. The Cardinals, of course, are the folks who
chair the various Appropriations Committee
subcommittees and literally control the billions of dollars
that pass through their hands.
Richard Blum and Dianne Feinstein
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