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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gun-Grabbing Grand Meistress, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Fingered in Corruption Scam of Taxpayer Money: Snopes (TRUE)

(No indictments, criminal charges, loss of Senate pension, or public exposures expected. Too fragile a development in which a congressional investigation could readily expose criminal activities of others too numerous, forcing a congressional shutdown.)
Claim:   The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein chairs a company that brokers sales of USPS facilities.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, April 2013]

It was recently learned that the United States has entered into a contract with one firm to sell 56 buildings that currently house U.S. Post Offices. The government has decided that it no longer needs these buildings (many of which are located on prime land in towns and cities across the country).

The sale of these properties will bring in billions of dollars and, with that, millions of dollars in commissions for the one Company that is in charge of handling the sale and negotiation of the new leases.

What makes this such a matter of concern is that the company that the Government has contracted with to conduct the sales (and the corresponding leases for the new locations of the displaced post offices) is owned by Richard Blum.

Does that name mean anything to you? Maybe it should re-phrased and say that the person who owns the company that is solely in charge of this multi-million-dollar transaction is Richard Blum the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Origins:   Facing a deficit of billions of dollars, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has floated a number of number of proposals to reduce that deficit, including selling off hundreds of post office properties in order to gain cash flow and reduce expenses. According to the Postal Service's 2012 report to Congress, more than 600 buildings nationwide have been "earmarked for disposal," and the "USPS Properties for Sale" web site currently lists 41 buildings for sale across the U.S. in addition to 11 land parcels.

In 2011, the CB Richard Ellis Group (now CBRE Group, Inc.), the world's largest commercial real estate services firm, was awarded an exclusive contract to market USPS facilities, which CBRE touted by announcing: "Historically, USPS has worked with multiple real estate service providers. The new contract enables USPS to consolidate these activities with one service provider."

This award has been the subject of some controversy, as CBRE's Chairman of the Board is Richard C. Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who represents the state of California in the U.S. Senate.

Although it is true that Blum is both CBRE's chairman and the spouse of a U.S. senator, it is not accurate to say that he is "solely in charge" of CBRE, nor that he "owns" the company. CBRE is headed by President and Chief Executive Officer Robert E. Sulentic, and CBRE is a public company whose shares are owned by many different individuals and institutional stockholders. (It is true, however, that Blum Capital, a private equity firm founded by Richard Blum, is one of CBRE's larger institutional stockholders.)

Owner Holdings Link

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Andrew S. Ross quoted a representative of Senator Feinstein as asserting that she is not involved in her husband's business dealings, and that the contract between the USPS and CBRE was not initiated or influenced by Congress:
As for accusations of a conflict of interest and suspicions that Feinstein may have influenced the awarding of the contract to her husband's firm, Feinstein's office strongly denies the charges.

"Sen. Feinstein is not involved with and does not discuss any of her husband's business decisions with him. Her husband's holdings are his separate personal property. Sen. Feinstein's assets are held in a blind trust. That arrangement has been in place since before she came to the Senate in 1992," said Brian Weiss, Feinstein's communications director.

In 2012, Feinstein voted for an amendment to a postal reform bill that would have temporarily halted post office closings. The amendment was defeated in the House.

Both the Postal Service and CBRE insisted the 2011 contract was competitively bid. The Postal Service is an independent agency that reports to Congress, but there is no indication Congress plays any role in the awarding of contracts.

While CBRE handles the transactions, it does not advise the Postal Service which facilities to put on the market, I was told by both sides.
Last updated:   22 May 2013 <!-- 23 April 2013 - original Sources:  
Maiman, Bruce.   "How Congress Undercuts the Postal Service."     

The Sacramento Bee.   16 April 2013.

    Ross, Andrew S.   "Grim Outlook for Post Office Buildings."
    San Francisco Chronicle.   8 February 2013.
--> CBRE/Richard Blum and USPS