MARCH 29, 2007
A veteran California senator has resigned as chair of a powerful military construction committee after reports that for years she abused her position to award her husband’s companies billions of dollars in government contracts.
During her six years as chair and ranking member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, Senator Dianne Feinstein annually supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars for specific military construction projects. The San Francisco lawmaker supervised her own staff of military construction experts and she lobbied Pentagon officials to support her favorite projects.
She wielded quite a bit of power and succeeded in steering hundreds of billions of dollars in military contracts to companies partially owned by her wealthy husband, Richard Blum. One company alone earned $792 million from military construction and environmental cleanup projects approved by Feinstein’s committee and another $759 million.
The blatant ethics violation and obvious conflict of interest was first exposed earlier this year by a weekly Northern California publication. The story details how Feinstein voted over the years for appropriations that enriched her husband’s firms and that her top legal advisor also happens to be one of her husband’s longtime business partners; in other words, a financial beneficiary of the senator’s decisions.
No wonder Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, is among the wealthiest members of congress. Last year she ranked eighth with a net worth of $42.6 million, boosted by assets she holds with her husband. Most of them are companies that have made their fortune from the very government contracts she has granted them.
Perhaps Feinstein quit her coveted military construction committee position because she is taking her new role as the senate ethics police quite seriously. As the new chair of the Senate Rules Committee Feinstein, for years an ethics violator, is actually in charge of regulating her colleagues’ ethical behavior.
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