The new Congress has barely made it past its start before a new face has been put on lobbyist influence. Dianne Feinstein, the senior Senator from California, has resigned her leadership position on a subcommittee which put billions of dollars into her family’s business (via QandO):
SEN. Dianne Feinstein has resigned from the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee. As previously and extensively reviewed in these pages, Feinstein was chairperson and ranking member of MILCON for six years, during which time she had a conflict of interest due to her husband Richard C. Blum’s ownership of two major defense contractors, who were awarded billions of dollars for military construction projects approved by Feinstein.
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 construction projects, some of which were contracted to her husband’s companies, Perini Corp. and URS Corp. …
As of December 2006, according to SEC filings and www.fedspending.org, three corporations in which Blum’s financial entities own a total of $1 billion in stock won considerable favor from the budgets of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs:
* Boston Scientific Corporation: $17.8 million for medical equipment and supplies; 85 percent of contracts awarded without benefit of competition.
* Kinetic Concepts Inc.: $12 million, medical equipment and supplies; 28 percent noncompetitively awarded.
* CB Richard Ellis: The Blum-controlled international real estate firm holds congressionally funded contracts to lease office space to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also is involved in redeveloping military bases turned over to the private sector.
Wasn’t it the Democrats who insisted that the Republicans jumped into bed with lobbyists and special interests? Well, now we have a senior Democrat who made sure that over a billion dollars of federal money got routed through her own checkbook, with her husband as proxy. When can we expect to see a Democratic investigation into this brand of corruption?
During the 2006 election, Feinstein’s party made a lot of hay out of non-competitve contracting by the government. Democrats railed especially about Halliburton, even though Halliburton won 95% of its contract dollars by full and open competition. Now we see that Feinstein herself had no problem with non-competitive practices, as long as it meant stuffing her own pockets with taxpayer money. Take a look at the percentages in the above. In 2005, CB Richard Ellis made $100 million in federal contracts, only half of which had been part of full and open competitive bidding.
When we talk about political corruption, this is exactly what we mean. Politicians who use their power and assignments to fill their own pockets with federal dollars corrupt our system and deserve to be tried in court for violating the public trust. Feinstein never should have sat on subcommittees that hand out federal contracts for markets in which her own family businesses compete. If the Democrats meant what they said in 2006, Feinstein provides an excellent test case for their new sense of ethics. They should expel her from the Senate and have California hold a special election to replace her. If they do nothing, then they have exposed themselves as the party of self-enrichment at the expense of taxpayers.