In Praise Of Senator Dianne Feinstein

[ Posted Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 – 16:52 UTC ]

I am not usually an enormous fan of California's senior senator. But I have to give Dianne Feinstein credit where credit is due, and praise her for stepping up to the plate on introducing some accountability and limits to the Wall Street bailout money. Also (being filled with the holiday spirit) I have words for praise for Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and even Joe Lieberman (Joe Liebermans For Joe Lieberman Party - CT).

Today, Senator Feinstein put out a joint press release with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) on a bill they cosponsored back in November. Their announcement is that they will be reintroducing S. 3698 once Congress reconvenes. This bill would ban the use of any bailout money for lobbying or political donations, would force the Treasury to come up with regulations about the use of such money for perks, private parties, corporate jets, and even year-end holiday parties. It would also force recipients of the bailout money to publish quarterly reports on how the money is used, to be made available to the public.

Feinstein, from her press release:

I have been profoundly disappointed by the absence of transparency regarding the use of $350 billion in bailout funds by the firms participating in Treasury's rescue program. At present, we don't know whether these companies are using these funds to fly on private jets, attend lavish conferences or lobby Congress. This bill puts clear restrictions on how funds can be used and mandates public reporting requirements to allow taxpayers to find out how their money is being spent. I believe we need to pass it and make it the law of the land.

Feinstein also, to her credit, pushed for the inclusion in the Detroit bailout of language forbidding the companies from using the money to fight higher emissions standards, so she's being pretty fair in making sure the money is used correctly in both instances.

But back to the Wall Street bailout. The full text of Feinstein and Snowe's bill is fairly short, simple, and interesting to read. My favorite part is Section 3(a):

Guidelines- Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Comptroller General and the Financial Stability Oversight Board, shall develop and publish corporate governance principles and ethical guidelines for recipients of emergency economic assistance including restrictions governing --

(1) the hosting, sponsorship, or payments for conferences and events;

(2) the use of corporate aircraft, travel accommodations, and travel expenditures;

(3) expenses relating to office or facility renovations or relocations; and

(4) expenses relating to entertainment, holiday parties, employee recognition events, or similar ancillary corporate expenses.

Of course, it'll take a month after this bill passes before such guidelines are due, meaning a whole bunch of cash may flow under the bridge until then. But I really can't fault Feinstein for that, since this bill was introduced November 19. If it had been acted upon back then, those regulations could have been in place by now.

The list of cosponsors who have signed on to the bill is also a little surprising -- for who is conspicuously absent. After Feinstein and Snowe introduced it, two senators cosponsored it the next day -- John Kerry (D-MA) and Norm Coleman, who is currently in a battle with Al Franken over his seat. After a few weeks, three more signed on to the bill -- Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA) and the aforementioned Joe Lieberman. That's it. Only seven members of the Senate have joined together in this effort.

Perhaps after they hear from a few constituents back home, a few more will sign on to this legislation. I don't know why that list doesn't contain the name of every single Democratic senator, for instance. Dianne Feinstein is not normally known for being all that tough on Big Business, so when she herself sponsors a bill of this nature, she should be supported for her efforts. There is nothing in her bill that is objectionable or hard to understand. It is a straightforward effort to force some accountability and limits on the free taxpayer money we seem to be handing out. I salute her for her efforts, and urge every United States Senator to join her in support.


-- Chris Weigant


2 Comments on “In Praise Of Senator Dianne Feinstein”

  1. [1] 
    Osborne Ink wrote:

    Oh, I am SO calling Senator Shelby's office next week. And Jeff Sessions. As much as they like to complain about bailouts, they had better damn well provide some oversight.

  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Also (being filled with the holiday spirit) I have words for praise for Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and even Joe Lieberman (Joe Liebermans For Joe Lieberman Party - CT).

    Awwww right!!!!

    Who are you and what have you done with CW!!!!??????


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