Sunday, October 7, 2018


 Dianne Feinstein’s husband chairs a company that brokers sales of USPS facilities.

Snopes Can’t Deny Feinstein Influence In Contract Award

Snopes rushed to Senator Feinstein’s aide as she’s attacked by critics for turning Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation into a circus, by saying they still can’t deny her husband got a cash-cow contract as a favor.

When the link between the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and a lucrative real estate contract to sell 56 ‘unwanted’ government Post Office properties were exposed, Snopes grudgingly admitted, “Richard Blum, Dianne Feinstein’s husband, chairs a company that brokers sales of USPS facilities.”
Snopes just recently “updated,” on October 5, 2018, an opinion they originally ran April 23, 2013, reporting that they couldn’t rule out the accusations that Feinstein’s husband was awarded the gold-mine contract simply because of the connection.
The only thing that changed, is that the charges have resurfaced since Senator Feinstein has been under the microscope, after stirring up all the last minute Brett Kavanaugh confirmation chaos. Snopes still can’t deny the connection.
The best defense that famously liberal Snopes could come up with was “no evidence supports the claim that Richard Blum’s company obtained the contract due to his wife’s influence.”
In other words, nobody has done the necessary forensic accounting analysis that would settle the question yet. Just because there isn’t a body doesn’t mean there wasn’t a murder.
“Facing a deficit of billions of dollars in recent years, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has floated a number of proposals to reduce that deficit, including selling off hundreds of post office properties,” Snopes explained. A 2012 report to Congress described 600 properties across the country “earmarked for disposal.”
As Snopes reported back in the mists of time, “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 provides CBRE with a commission of 2 to 6 percent on the sale of those properties.”
Which, Snopes writes, “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.”
Considering the sale of only 56 buildings raked in “billions of dollars,” an average 4 percent commission on $2 billion works out to $80 million, and with more than ten times that number of properties on the auction block, CBRE is easily looking at over $1 billion overall.
Snopes couldn’t deny the controversy that “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,” even noting that many of the extra buildings “are located on prime land.”
Snopes makes a big deal of pointing out that Richard Blum isn’t “solely in charge” of CBRE and he doesn’t own the company but they bury in the middle of a long sentence that, “it is indeed true that Richard Blum is both CBRE’s chairman and the husband of a U.S. senator.”
They also admit, Blum Capital, the “private equity firm founded by Richard Blum, is one of CBRE’s larger institutional stockholders.” So, that means he gets a bigger chunk of any profits.
Unsurprisingly, Feinstein dismissed the allegations that her husband got the contract in an attempt to influence her congressional decisions. Their piles of money are totally separate, she insists through a spokesman.
“Senator 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. Senator Feinstein’s assets are held in a blind trust.” communications director Brian Weiss maintains. All the shares he holds in Facebook are only his too.
Not many people are convinced, especially after an audit report came out from the Inspector General for the USPS in June 2013.
“Outsourcing real estate management services to one supplier is a fundamental change from how the Postal Service previously managed its real estate portfolio.” The investigators were “critical of several aspects of the contract between USPS and CBRE.”
“Specifically, there are conflict of interest concerns and no maximum contract value. In addition, the contracting officer did not properly approve contract payments, appoint contracting officer’s representatives to monitor contract performance, or ensure services were provided.”
“As a result,” they write, “it is difficult for the Postal Service to determine whether the outsourcing effort has been or will be effective in reducing costs.”
The Inspector General points out the conflict of interest issues “exist because the contractor provides a range of property values to negotiate a lease and receives a commission from the lessor based on the property value negotiated.”
Because CBRE works for both the Postal Service to negotiate the leases and “can also represent the lessor,” they seem to improperly influence the market. By playing both sides of the fence, they were able to keep commissions up.
“The Postal Service established a targeted incentive for reduced lease rates,” which would have impacted property values negatively. “In the first year of the contract,” they “did not meet the target.” Also, the IG reports, “facilities officials did not establish a maximum contract amount, which poses the risk of escalating contract costs.”
After CBRE took over, “officials increased contract funding from $2 million to $6 million. By 2013, it had reverted some but contract payments still “exceeded $3 million.”
There was enough about the subject for journalist Peter Byrne to expand “his previous news writings on this subject into a full-length book,” Snopes graciously shares.
The book is “dedicated to the relationship between Richard Blum, CBRE, and the USPS in which he charged Blum and CBRE with various mis-dealings and mismanagement in brokering the sales of USPS properties.”
Since Snopes scrubbed the original version of their report from 2013 by replacing it entirely with this week’s Feinstein supporting “update,” it is impossible to tell if they bothered to change a single word. The internet “Wayback machine” is blocked from monitoring Snopes.
They still can’t prove her husband didn’t get the job only because of her influence.

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