News Release

Is Post Office Ignoring Internal Report on Sen. Feinstein’s Husband’s Real Estate “Shakedowns” and “Kickbacks”?

IMG_5285The Intercept reports: “Government Says Company Part-Owned by Feinstein’s Husband Abuses Post Office Contract,” that “CBRE, a giant real estate company partially owned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, is costing the U.S. Postal Service millions of dollars a year in lease overpayments, and its exclusive contract should be immediately canceled, the service’s inspector general has found.

“Eyebrows rose when the USPS made the contract with CBRE in June 2011 for all real estate transactions. Blum chaired CBRE at the time; he stepped down last year, but remains a director and a major shareholder. Feinstein, D-Calif., has always denied involvement in the deal, which proved lucrative as the cash-strapped Postal Service looked to its excess real estate to finance operations.

“The contract enables CBRE to market and sell properties, and conduct negotiations for leases of postal buildings. Prior to the contract, USPS negotiated leases directly with landlords. Now, CBRE often represents both the Postal Service and the landlord in negotiations, known as ‘dual agency transactions.’

“The inspector general’s report described something akin to a shakedown, with a kickback thrown in.”

PETER BYRNE, pbyrne at sonic.net
Byrne is author of Going Postal: The Husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has Been Selling Post Offices to his Friends, Cheap. He just wrote the piece: “The Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service calls for the firing of the politically connected real estate firm that has been selling post offices to its friends, cheap,” which states: “The auditors examined 21 of the 49 property sales negotiated by CBRE in 2012 – 2013. They found serious problems with 66 percent of the deals. For example, appraisals for seven of the CBRE-brokered sales were deemed ‘insufficient,’ ‘flawed,’ ‘mistaken,’ or ‘speculative.’ …

Going Postal reported that in 2011 CBRE brokered the sale of a downtown Boston parcel to one of its major corporate owners and business partners, Goldman Sachs Group. And in 2012, CBRE brokered the sale of a Las Vegas post office to its client, Boyd Gaming, which turned around and sold it a few months later for $5 million more than it had paid to the Postal Service. …

“Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan’s spokesperson told me she will not terminate the CBRE contract, which runs indefinitely into the future. Nor will the Postal Service stop CBRE from demanding commissions from landlords or from representing buyers.”

GRAY BRECHIN, gbrechin at berkeley.edu
Brechin is founder and project scholar of the Living New Deal Project at UC Berkeley. He said today: “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] has largely confirmed what Byrne found almost two years ago. I can only hope that this leads to a criminal investigation and possible prosecution of both entities.That one of the most powerful senators in Congress should be benefiting from the sale of public properties through her billionaire spouse should have raised suspicion from the get go if the press was still doing its job, but, with few exceptions, it has chosen to look the other way.

“What the OIG and this story do not address is the degree to which the USPS has largely ignored its obligations under the Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act to steward publicly-owned properties of great historic and artistic merit. No other nation in the world possesses not only such fine buildings but a continent-spanning collection of artworks unique to their locations. (This is no accident since, as an avid stamp collector, President Franklin Roosevelt was keenly interested not only in the postal service and the post offices built during his administration but in the artworks that embellished them: he contributed to the design of six post offices near his home in Hyde Park, NY.) The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named U.S. Post Offices as among the nation’s most endangered treasures, but Americans are unaware of what is being taken from them because of the dereliction of the press which has largely swallowed the USPS line that it must liquidate our property because of a fiscal crisis that was largely manufactured by Congress in 2006 in order to privatize the Constituionally-mandated U.S. Postal Service.

“Finally, over the last two years, Berkeley has become the epicenter of resistance to these sales; activists held rallies and marched down Montgomery Street in San Francisco between Richard Blum’s offices and those of his wife, Senator Feinstein, for example, and the City of Berkeley and the National Trust recently successfully sued the USPS to stop the sale of Berkeley’s century-old, National Register-listed downtown post office. Other cities in danger of losing their historic post offices and the art they contain should know that they can do the same. We will be having a celebration of that victory and a thank you for the attorneys at the Post Office this Saturday.”

See 2013 IPA news release: “Is Sen. Feinstein Profiting From the Fire Sale of the Public’s Property and Art?

Also, see by Sam Husseini: “Questioning Post Master General Donahoe on Sell off of Buildings and Financial Services.”