Code Pink, Raging Grannies ask Feinstein
to return profits to Iraq amid allegations
of corruption and war profiteering
Feinstein releases statement to Fog City Journal
Members of Code Pink and Raging Grannies staged a protest yesterday
outside the house of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal) and husband
Richard C. Blum calling on the couple to return alleged profits
realized while Feinstein was chair of the Senate Subcommittee
on Military Construction Appropriations.
April 9, 2007, 8:30 a.m.
Members of Code Pink
and Raging Grannies held a peaceful protest Sunday outside the
home of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal) and husband Richard C.
Blum. The peace groups are asking Feinstein and Blum to return
war profits the couple realized while Feinstein was chair
of the Senate Subcommittee on Military Construction Appropriations,
to the people of Iraq.
Blum is a majority owner in Perini Corp. and URS Corp., two companies
awarded favorable contracts while Feinstein was chair of the subcommittee.
Feinstein recently resigned her post as chair of the subcommittee,
to reports, while questions were being raised about a potential
conflict of interest.
Senator Dianne Feinstein and Richard C. Blum
Feinstein has since broken
her silence on the matter calling the allegations "nonsense"
and denying she played a role in awarding military contracts that
benefited companies owned by Blum.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said of the protest:
"We were outside Senator Diane Feinstein's house for two
reasons. One was to pressure her to stop funding the war and to
support the new legislation introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold,
with the support of Sen. Harry Reid that calls for the troops
to be home within a year - with a fixed timetable for withdrawal.
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin
"The other reason is our concern about her conflict of interest,
with her husband Dick Blum receiving multi-million dollar defense
contracts while she headed the subcommittee on military construction.
We feel that she and her husband have profited from this war,
and they should return the profits back to the Iraqi people. Moreover,
although Feinstein recently resigned from the subcommittee, we
are urging an investigation into the conflict of interest."
Called for comment on the allegations, Feinstein spokesperson
Scott Gerber today released the following statement to Fog City
It is nonsense to suggest that Senator Feinstein resigned
from the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee. Thats
just not true.
At the beginning of every Congress, openings on subcommittees
become available for one reason or another, and members have an
opportunity to change subcommittees based on seniority.
Prior to serving on the Military Construction subcommittee,
Senator Feinstein served as Chairman or Ranking Member of the
DC Appropriations Subcommittee and the Legislative Branch Appropriations
This year, following the departure of Senator Reid from the
Committee, the opportunity became available for Senator Feinstein
to move up once again and become the Chairman of the Interior
Appropriations Subcommittee. Eight other Appropriations Committee
members made similar changes as well.
The Interior Subcommittee has responsibility for funding the
Forest Service, the Park Service, and the Environmental Protection
Agency. This was a better committee assignment for California,
and so Senator Feinstein took the opportunity. She became Chairman
of the Interior Subcommittee in January.
Senator Feinstein has sought to avoid potential conflicts
in two ways.
First, by seeking the advice of the Senate Ethics Committee
on her own initiative about whether conflicts existed and
following that guidance. That guidance indicated that, given the
facts, Senator Feinstein could fully consider, debate, and vote
on appropriations bills, whether in the subcommittee, committee
or full Senate.
Second, by never crossing the line between the congressional
appropriations process and the separate Department of Defense
contract award process.
Each year, the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee
reconciles the Presidents Budget Request with the Committees
allocation of funding to the Subcommittee (302b).
Every project (such as family housing, National Guard and
Reserve facilities, facilities on active duty military bases worldwide,
etc.) included in the Senate Military Construction Appropriations
bill is identified for funding in the Defense Departments
planning document (Future Years Defense Plan). Every project must
be also independently authorized by the Senate Armed Services
Committee, on which Senator Feinstein does not sit.
The bill does not include contracts, but rather lump-sum appropriations.
Ultimately, Congress votes on the bill, typically by overwhelming
margins, and the President signs it into law.
Subsequently, the contracts for these projects are awarded
by the Department of Defense in a completely separate process.
Congress plays no role in determining which entities are awarded
Let me be clear and specific:
Senator Feinstein never sought to influence which entities
were awarded any military construction contracts. Neither she
nor her staff ever wrote, spoke to, or influenced in any way Defense
Department officials in charge of determining which entities were
awarded any military construction contract.
So bottom line, there is no conflict."