Who’s got a secret? If Senator Dianne Feinstein has her way, almost no one. Chair of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, the California Democrat has voted to modify FISA to allow much wider surveillance of Americans’ phone and e-mail communications by the US Government; to extend the Patriot Act that, among other provisions, authorizes indefinite detention and warrantless searches; and advocates hunting down and harshly punishing government whistle-blowers.
Yet despite all her access to classified information, and knowing no convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction existed, Feinstein voted for the Iraq War. As former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter reported in 2005:
Today, Feinstein all-too conveniently “regrets” her vote in favor of war on Iraq, but defends her yes vote in 2002 by noting that “the intelligence was very conclusive: Saddam possessed biological and chemical weapons.” This is a far different from the statement Feinstein made to me in the summer of 2002, when she acknowledged that the Bush administration had not provided any convincing intelligence to back up its claims about Iraqi WMD.
One thing that isn’t altogether secret is who contributes to her political campaigns. The top donor to the chairperson of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development was Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which from 2008-2010 used $79 million to lobby Congress while paying no income taxes and indeed getting a billion bucks back in tax breaks. Another California-based utility, Edison International, was her third-largest contributor, donating an eighth of a million dollars. Wells Fargo, a megabank with its headquarters in San Francisco, ranked sixth on her list, and like PG&E paid millions in lobbying but nothing in income tax.
With a two-trillion-dollar economy, California possesses the eighth largest economy in the world, and many of its businesses contribute to Feinstein’s campaigns. The Senator’s second largest donor was the University of California; the world’s largest media conglomerate, the LA-based Walt Disney Company, was fourth, immediately followed by Time Warner, the second-largest media corporation on Earth. Also pouring local money into Feinstein’s campaign accounts: Modesto’s E&J Gallo Winery (seventh); LA law firms O’Melveny & Myers (eighth), Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (13th) and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (14th); San Francisco clothing retailer The Gap (16th); the nation’s biggest construction company, San Francisco’s Bechtel (19th); San Diego semiconductor makers Qualcomm (20th).
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee member Feinstein receives plenty of money from huge military contractors such as Northrop Grumman (ninth) and General Dynamics (11th) of Virginia as well as San Diego’s General Atomics (12th). She also gets funds from the country’s fifth largest company, financial powerhouse Bank of America (tenth); French mass media corporation Vivendi (15th); the politically active Seafarer’s International Union (17th); George Soros‘s Israel-oriented, two-state solution advocates JStreetPAC (18th).
Feinstein may also have more personal reasons to support increasing the military’s snooping authority. As Glenn Greenwald reported in December as the Senator led the FISA reauthorization fight:
Feinstein is one of the Senate’s richest plutocrats, whose husband, Richard Blum, has coincidentally been quite enriched by military and other government contracts during her Senate career. During this time, Feinstein has acted as the most faithful servant in the Senate of the National Security State’s unchecked, authoritarian power.