Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, could bag $1 billion in commissions for his company from a government plan to sell 56 US Postal Service buildings.
As the New York Post notes, “Blum’s company, CBRE, was selected in March 2011 as the sole real estate agent on sales expected to fetch $19 billion. Most voters didn’t notice that Blum is a member of CBRE’s board and served as chairman from 2001 to 2014.”
Feinstein’s office denies that she had anything to do with the USPS decision.
The victor in yesterday’s California primary in the U.S. Senate, incumbent DemocratDianne Feinstein, has long faced questions about potential conflicts of interest in Congress, according to Breitbart News sources. Specifically, for at least 15 years, Feinstein has appeared to support government contracts that push federal funds toward companies co-owned or governed by her powerful, billionaire husband, Richard C. Blum.
records reportedly show that Blum paid only $4 a share for the
Perini stock, but was able to sell three million shares in 2005 for $23.75
each. (Federal lawmakers are required to file financial disclosure statements
under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. The forms are published each
year to disclose any potential conflicts of interest with their or their
spouses’ business decisions.)
Weiss, a press spokesman for Feinstein at the U.S. Senate, told Breitbart News
that no conflict of interest existed. In a detailed e-mail response to
questions, Weiss wrote the following:
Feinstein sought the advice of the Senate Ethics Committee about whether any
conflict existed. The committee indicated that Senator Feinstein could
consider, debate and vote on appropriations bills in the subcommittee, the
committee and full Senate. The Department of Defense awards contracts–not
Congress. Senator Feinstein (and her staff) had no involvement in which
entities were awarded military construction contracts.
to Peter Byrne, a veteran, left-wing, anti-war journalist who has
spent several years investigating Feinstein on location in California, that’s
2002 to 2005, URS and Perini went from having very little in military
construction contracts to having billions of dollars in such contracts,” he told
Breitbart News in an series of exclusive interviews. “After December 2005,
Feinstein no longer had a discernible financial interest in the contracts
that were vetted by MILCON because her husband abruptly divested of
his family’s URS and Perini stock–taking a substantial profit worth many
millions of dollars that was directly caused by the military construction
a March 21, 2007 Metroactive story penned by Byrne, he wrote: “As MILCON
leader, Feinstein relished the details of military construction, even
micromanaging one project at the level of its sewer design. She regularly took
junkets to military bases around the world to inspect the construction
projects, some of which were contracted to her husband’s inquiries, Perini Corp
and URS Corp.”
that’s not the only allegation involving MILCON.
to a 2004 San Francisco Chronicle report,
“Feinstein has also received scrutiny for husband Richard Blum’s extensive
business dealings with China and her past trade issues with the country.”
Owen Blicksilver, Blum’s personal spokesman, dismissed any
improper connection between MILCON, Perini and Feinstein: “Positions in
Perini and URS were both fully liquidated in 2005. My assumption is they
have received government contracts in the last six years and undoubtedly
received them in the years prior to Blum Capital’s investment.”
MILCON isn’t the only shadow haunting the California senator.
ALLOCATING TARP FUNDS TO THE
FDIC – THE CB ELLIS CONNECTION
alleged Blum connection was that the FDIC had just awarded Blum’s real estate
firm a profitable contract to resell foreclosed properties at compensation
rates higher than the industry norms.
to the Washington Times,
“Mrs. Feinstein’s intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
was unusual: the California Democrat isn’t a member of the Senate Committee on
Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency
is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance
payments–not direct federal dollars.”
obtained by the newspaper exposed that Feinstein had sent a letter to the FDIC on October 30, 2008 offering to
help it secure funds to help them stave off ensuing foreclosures.
letter was sent only a few days before CB Richard Ellis Group (the commercial
real estate firm that Blum serves as board chairman) had won a contract to sell
foreclosed properties that FDIC was taking on from failed banks.
to Weiss, “this is an allegation that has totally been discredited.”
explanation was that the senator simply introduced legislation to allocate $25
billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2009 because
California had the third highest number of foreclosures in the nation.
Feinstein learned of FDIC Chair Sheila Bair’s proposal for foreclosure relief
from news reports, expressed her support in a letter, and introduced legislation
to implement it,” Weiss wrote to Breitbart News. “She was unaware of
CBRE’s bid for an FDIC contract so it clearly played no role in her decision to
introduce legislation. The Inspector General at the FDIC reviewed this and
concluded there was ‘no improper influence’ in the awarding of the
LaJuan Williams-Young, a spokeswoman for the FDIC, declined to
explain why CBRE was chosen and instead simply defended the agency: “There are
four other contractors that perform similar work for the Corporation.”
these cases, she was voting on bills that ultimately benefited her husband’s
companies . . . she knew, everyone knew what would come out of those bills, and
at the least she should have known where that money could have gone, and that
simply doesn’t stand scrutiny.”
asked about Feinstein and her husband benefitting from all of these contracts
as well as the FDIC legislation, Weiss simply responded, “All items referred to
above are Richard Blum’s separate property relating to his business . . .
Senator Feinstein is not involved with and does not discuss any of her
husband’s business decisions.”
mirrored Weiss’ response, saying that, “Blum Capital Partners has a strict confidentiality policy
which Mr. Blum and other members of the firm adhere to. As such, he does
not discuss the Firm’s investments with the Senator.”
A MYSTERIOUS GRANT FROM THE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
most recent controversy emerges from Breitbart News editor Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out,
which reveals that on November 18, 2009 she and her husband invested $1 million
into Amyris Biotechnologies, a “green” company focused on
plant-based renewable fuels and chemicals.
purchase of the stock in Amyris by Richard Blum was disclosed on Senator Feinstein’s financial disclosure in May of 2010.
In addition, the value of the stock in Amyris is also disclosed on Senator
Feinstein’s financial disclosure forms as an asset that is owned solely by her
spouse. Senator Feinstein never discussed the purchase of this stock with
her husband. Senator Feinstein is not involved with and does not discuss
any of her husband’s business decisions.”
“This is the standard politician’s response,”
Schweizer told Breitbart News. They say, ‘I disclosed it, so that makes it
okay, or ‘I don’t talk to my spouse about their financial decisions so I’m in
the clear.’ There’s a reason members of Congress are required to disclose
their spouse’s financial transactions. Let’s face it–politicians have
been known to be less than straightforward with the truth.”
“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts. This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.” –Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
“[Censored] should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America. And, perhaps read aloud to a few publishers and television executives.” —Ralph Nader
“Censored 2014 is a clarion call for truth telling. Not only does this volume highlight fearless speech in fateful times, it connect the dots between the key issues we face, lauds our whistleblowers and amplifies their voices, and shines light in the dark places of our government that most need exposure.” –Daniel Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers
“Project Censored shines a spotlight on news that an informed public must have . . . a vital contribution to our democratic process.” —Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumer’s Union
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“The staff of Project Censored presents their annual compilation of the previous year’s 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media along with essays about censorship and its consequences. The stories include an 813% rise in hate and anti-government groups since 2008, human rights violations by the US Border Patrol, and Israeli doctors injecting Ethiopian immigrants with birth control without their consent. Other stories focus on the environment, like the effects of fracking and Monsantos GMO seeds. The writers point out misinformation and outright deception in the media, including CNN relegating factual accounts to the “opinion” section and the whitewashing of Margaret Thatcher’s career following her death in 2013, unlike Hugo Chavez, who was routinely disparaged in the coverage following his death. One essay deals with the proliferation of “Junk Food News,” in which “CNN and Fox News devoted more time to ‘Gangnam Style’ than the renewal of Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ law.” Another explains common media manipulation tactics and outlines practices to becoming a more engaged, free-thinking news consumer or even citizen journalist. Rob Williams remarks on Hollywood’s “deep and abiding role as a popular propaganda provider” via Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. An expose on working conditions in Chinese Apple factories is brutal yet essential reading. This book is evident of Project Censored’s profoundly important work in educating readers on current events and the skills needed to be a critical thinker.” -Publisher’s Weekly said about Censored 2014 (Oct.)
“[Censored] offers devastating evidence of the dumbing-down of main-stream news in America. . . . Required reading for broadcasters, journalists, and well-informed citizens.” —Los Angeles Times
“In another home run for Project Censored, Censored 2013 shows how the American public has been bamboozled, snookered, and dumbed down by the corporate media. It is chock-full of ‘ah-ha’ moments where we understand just how we’ve been fleeced by banksters, stripped of our civil liberties, and blindly led down a path of never-ending war.” –Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK.
“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” —Walter Cronkite
“At a time when the need for independent journalism and for media outlets unaffiliated with and untainted by the government and corporate sponsors is greater than ever, Project Censored has created a context for reporting the complete truths in all matters that matter. . . . It is therefore left to us to find sources for information we can trust. . . . It is in this task that we are fortunate to have an ally like Project Cen-sored.” —Dahr Jamail
“Project Censored continues to be an invaluable resource in exposing and highlighting shocking stories that are routinely minimized or ignored by the corporate media. The vital nature of this work is underscored by this year’s NSA leaks. The world needs more brave whistle blowers and independent journalists in the service of reclaiming democracy and challenging the abuse of power. Project Censored stands out for its commitment to such work.” —Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“Activist groups like Project Censored . . . are helping to build the media democracy movement. We have to challenge the powers that be and rebuild media from the bottom up.” —Amy Goodman
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney
“Project Censored brings to light some of the most important stories of the year that you never saw or heard about. This is your chance to find out what got buried.” –Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
“Project Censored interrogates the present in the same way that Oliver Stone and I tried to interrogate the past in our Untold History of the United States. It not only shines a penetrating light on the American Empire and all its deadly, destructive, and deceitful actions, it does so at a time when the Obama administration is mounting a fierce effort to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers. Project Censored provides the kind of fearless and honest journalism we so desperately need in these dangerous times.” —Peter Kuznick, professor of history, American University, and coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States
“For ages, I’ve dreamed of a United States where Project Censored isn’t necessary, where these crucial stories and defining issues are on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of Time, and in heavy rotation on CNN. That world still doesn’t exist, but we always have Project Censored’s yearly book to pull together the most important things the corporate media ignored, missed, or botched.” –Russ Kick, author of You Are Being Lied To, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and the New York Times bestselling series The Graphic Canon.
David Abbott, Amanda Spigut, and Ann Marie O’Toole
Faculty Evaluator: David McCuan, Ph.D.
ninth wealthiest member of congress—has been beset by monumental ethical
conflicts of interest. As a member of the Military Construction Appropriations
Subcommittee (MILCON) from 2001 to the end of 2005, Senator Feinstein voted for
appropriations worth billions of dollars to her husband’s firms.
From 1997 through the end of 2005, Feinstein’s husband Richard C. Blum was a
majority shareholder in both URS Corp. and Perini Corp. She lobbied Pentagon
officials in public hearings to support defense projects that she favored, some
of which already were, or subsequently became, URS or Perini contracts. From
2001 to 2005, URS earned $792 million from military construction and
environmental cleanup projects approved by MILCON; Perini earned $759 million
from such projects.
In 2000, Perini earned a mere $7 million from federal contracts. After 9/11,
Perini was transformed into a major defense contractor. In 2004, the company
earned $444 million for military construction work in Iraq and Afghanistan, as
well as for improving airfields for the US Air Force in Europe and building
base infrastructures for the US Navy around the globe. In a remarkable
financial recovery, Perini shot from near penury in 1997 to logging gross
revenues of $1.7 billion in 2005.
It is estimated that Perini now holds at least $2.5 billion worth of contracts
tied to the worldwide expansion of the US military. Its largest Department of
Defense contracts are “indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity” or “bundled”
contracts carrying guaranteed profit margins. As of May 2006, Perini held a
series of bundled contracts awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers for work in
the Middle East worth $1.725 billion. Perini has also been awarded an
open-ended contract by the US Air Force for military construction and cleaning
the environment at closed military bases.
In 2003 hearings, MILCON approved various construction projects at sites where
Perini and/or URS are contracted to perform engineering and military
construction work. URS’s military construction work in 2000 earned it a mere
$24 million. The next year, when Feinstein took over as MILCON chair, military
construction earned URS $185 million. On top of that, the company’s
architectural and engineering revenue from military construction projects grew
from $108,726 in 2000 to $142 million in 2001, more than a thousand-fold
increase in a single year.
Beginning in 1997, Michael R. Klein, a top legal adviser to Feinstein and a
long-time business partner of Blum’s, routinely informed Feinstein about
specific federal projects coming before her in which Perini had a stake. The
insider information, Klein said, “was intended to help the senator avoid
conflicts of interest.” Although Klein’s admission was intended to defuse the
issue, it had the effect of exacerbating it, because in theory, Feinstein would
not know the identity of any of the companies that stood to contractually
benefit from her approval of specific items in the military construction
budget—until Klein told her.
Feinstein’s husband has profited in other ways by his powerful political
connections. In March 2002, then-Governor Gray Davis appointed Blum to a
twelve-year term as a regent of the University of California, where he used his
position as Regent to award millions of dollars in construction contracts to
URS and Perini. At the time, he was the principal owner of URS and had
substantial interests in Perini. In 2005, Blum divested himself of Perini stock
for a considerable profit. He then resigned from the URS board of directors and
divested his investment firm of about $220 million in URS stock.1
1. Peter Byrne, “Blum’s Plums” North Bay Bohemian, February 21, 2007.
UPDATE BY PETER BYRNE
Shortly before my expose of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s conflict of interest was
published in January 2007, Feinstein, who had declined to substantively comment
upon serious allegations of ethical misconduct as reported in the story,
resigned from the Military Construction Subcommittee. I then wrote three
follow-ups, including a news column on her resignation, an expose of her
husband Richard Blum’s conflict of interest as a regent of the University of
California, and an expose of Blum’s business partner, Michael R. Klein. With
Blum’s financial backing, Klein, a war contractor, operates a non-profit called
The Sunlight Foundation that awards millions of dollars to reporters and
government watchdog groups to research government ethics.
In March, right-wing bloggers by the thousands started linking to and
commenting upon these stories—agitating for a Congressional investigation of
Feinstein. In just two days, the stories got 50,000 online hits. Michael Savage
and Rush Limbaugh did radio segments on my findings. I declined to appear on
their shows, because I do not associate with racist, misogynist, homophobic
demagogues. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly invited me to be on his national TV show,
but quickly uninvited me after I promised that the first sentence out of my
mouth would frame Feinstein as a neoconservative warmonger just like O’Reilly.
As the storm of conservative outrage intensified, Joe Conason, from The Nation
Institute, which had commissioned the Feinstein investigation, asked to have
the tag thanking the Nation Institute for funding removed from my stories
because, he said, Katrina vanden Heuval, The Nation’s editor and publisher, did
not want the magazine or its non-profit institute to be positively associated
with Limbaugh. I told Conason that not only was I required to credit The Nation
Institute under the terms of our contract, but that The Nation’s editors should
be proud of the investigation and gratified by the public reaction.
The back story to that encounter is that, in October, vanden Heuvel had
abruptly killed the Feinstein story, which had been scheduled to run as a cover
feature before the November 2006 election in which Feinstein was up for
reelection. The Nation’s investigative editor, Bob Moser, who worked closely
with me on the project from start to finish, wrote that I had done a “solid
job,” but that the magazine liked to have a political “impact,” and since
Feinstein was “not facing a strong challenge for reelection,” they were not
going to print the story. Moser added that there was no “smoking gun,” which
amazed me, since Klein’s admission that he was funneling defense contracting
wish lists developed by Feinstein’s husband’s company directly to the senator,
who was in a position to make those wishes come true, was a hot and smoking
fact pointing toward corrupt practices. Subsequently, vanden Heuval wrote an
editorial praising women leaders of the newly-empowered Democratic Party,
including Feinstein: go figure.
I then sold the story to Salon.com, who abruptly killed it right before
publication, too. This time the editor’s explanation was that “someone talked
to the Sunlight Foundation” and that Salon no longer saw the matter as a
serious conflict of interest. So, I pitched the story to Slate, The
NewRepublic, Harper’s, the Los Angeles Times and, by way of experiment, to the
neoconservative American Spectator and Weekly Standard. Most of the editors
praised the reporting, but turned down the story. I cannot help but believe
that, considering the precarious balance of power in the post-election Senate,
some of these editors were not eager to critique the ethics of a Democrat. As
for rejection by the neoconservatives, I theorize that they secretly adore
Feinstein, who has consistently supported Bush’s war and homeland security
agenda and the illiberal Patriot Act.
So I sold the tale to the North Bay Bohemian, which, along with its sister
papers in San Jose and Santa Cruz ran it on the cover—complete with follow-ups.
After it appeared, the editors and I received a series of invective-filled
emails from war contractor Klein (who is also an attorney) but, since he could
show no errors of fact in the story, he did not get the retraction that he
apparently wanted. In March, the story crested a Google tidal wave generated by
left- and right-wing bloggers wondering why the mainstream media was ignoring
the Feinstein scandal. After two dozen newspapers ran a McClatchy wire service
article in April observing that no one had found any factual faults in my
reporting, the lefty group Media Matters attacked me on its Web site as a
right-wing pawn, without even calling me for comment, nor finding any errors in
my reporting. I parried their fact-free insults with facts and they were
compelled to correct the inaccurate rant.
On April 30, The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C. ran a highly-visible op-ed
by a conservative pundit quoting from my story and comparing Feinstein
(unfairly) to convicted felon and former Congressman, Duke Cunningham. As the
Feinstein investigation gained national traction, mostly outside the realm of
the mainstream media, one of Klein’s employees at the Sunlight Foundation
posted a “critique” of my story, which was loaded with personal insults, but
contained no factual substance. Not coincidentally, Feinstein’s press office
distributes, upon request, a similarly-worded “rebuttal,” which insults my
personal integrity, finds no factual errors, and does not address the damning
fact, reported in the story, that four non-partisan ethics experts based in
Washington D.C. found the senator had a conflict of interest after reviewing
the results of my investigation.
Also, in April, CodePink and The Raging Grannies held a demonstration in front
of the Feinstein-Blum mansion in San Francisco demanding that she return her
war profits to the Iraqi people. That was my proudest moment.
Five months after the story was printed, opinion-floggers across the political
spectrum continue to loudly ask why the mainstream media has not reported on
Feinstein’s ethical problem. Some say that the hurricane of opinion raised by
the investigation has killed Feinstein’s chance for a spot on the Democratic
Party’s presidential ticket in 2008. Klein has continued to send me e-mails
full of verbal abuse, misspellings, and implied threat of lawsuit.
Blissfully, I delete them.
The Mexican Invasion & Occupation