Right-wing bloggers have had a glorious time bashing California Senator Dianne Feinstein for months over the blatant crony capitalism of having the front-runner for the state’s first big high-speed rail contract be principally controlled by her husband, financier Richard Blum.
The only problem: Feinstein’s office says Blum has no financial ties to the company in question, Sylmar-based Tutor Perini Corp.
U-T San Diego cited an unnamed aide in the senator’s office as asserting that neither Blum nor companies he controls maintain any financial investment in or affiliation with Tutor Perini.
While there are literally hundreds of stories online castigating Feinstein for Blum’s alleged control of Perini—the word “alleged” is never in them—there are admittedly few mentions, like this Forbes story in March 2007 or this story, that Blum had sold his stake. Blum first became involved with what is now Tutor Perini in 1998 when he joined with Ronald Tutor to help recapitalize the troubled company. He reportedly sold his stock at a substantial profit in 2005.
Tutor Perini was the low-bidder on the contract to build the bullet train’s first 29-mile leg, between Madera and Fresno, sparking headlines across the blogosphere like the one on Michelle Malkin’s site: “Naturally: California awards billion-dollar high speed rail contract to firm partly owned by Dianne Feinstein’s husband.”
Not only is the firm apparently not “partly owned” by Blum, the contract has not yet been awarded. The staff of the California High-Speed Rail Authority recently recommended that Tutor Perini get the contract because it was the low-bidder, at $995 million, but came under fire because the company had the lowest technical score among the five contractors who bid.
It didn’t help that the staff changed the criteria for selecting a winner without board approval. Originally, only companies with the highest technical scores were going to be eligible for the lowest-bid portion of the two-part process. The board is expected to make a decision on awarding the contract soon.
Critics of Feinstein have long argued that her husband received special consideration in his far-flung business interests that involve government contracts and deals in China. The senator has always maintained that she has no knowledge of or financial interest in her husband’s holdings. Feinstein spokesman Brian Weiss told U-T San Diego, “Her husband’s holdings are his separate personal property” and the senator’s assets have been in a blind trust since she entered the Senate in 1992.