As if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., didn’t already have enough to worry about.
The ranking member of the Judiciary Committee hasy been battling damaging reports that friends in her own party have questioned her ability to lead the upcoming fight in the Supreme Court nomination.
Now, she’s being quietly linked to a criminal probe on college admissions.
Feinstein’s husband, University of California Regent Richard Blum, was named Thursday by the state auditor’s office as one of the regents involved in an admissions scandal where UC wrongly admitted dozens of wealthy, mostly white students as favors to well-connected people.
Blum, it’s alleged, helped pull the strings and played favorites. Blum denies any wrongdoing and said he merely wrote letters on friends’ behalf.
It’s was an aggressive move on his part — a tactic that Democrats are wishing Sen. Feinstein had as she prepares to face President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick.
In fact, Politico reported that Democratic insiders fear she may botch the entire political fight and lose the Supreme Court to a conservative majority for a generation.
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Critics note that Feinstein has slowed down considerably as of late, becomes confused by questions in the media, and that her gentle style generally seems out-of-touch in an era of hardball politics.
Heading into the Supreme Court battle, it’s poor timing that Feinstein’s husband’s link to a criminal investigation may be lingering over her heard.
Among those “inappropriately admitted” in the college scandal were a student whose family was friends with a member of the Board of Regents, the child of a major donor, and an applicant who babysat for a colleague of a former admissions director, according to the report released Tuesday by the California State Auditor.
In one case, a regent unidentified in the audit sent an “inappropriate letter of support” directly to the UC Berkeley chancellor on behalf of a student with only a 26% chance of winning a spot off the waitlist, despite the policy prohibiting efforts by regents to influence admissions decisions by going around the regular process. The applicant was admitted.
Auditor’s spokeswoman Margarita Fernandez confirmed to The Associated Press that Blum was the regent.
Blum told The San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday that he’s done nothing wrong and that he has used his clout to get friends and family into the elite public system for years.
“I did it a bunch of times,” Blum said, adding that he has never considered it a problem to write recommendation letters bypassing the traditional admissions process. A policy prohibiting such influence has been in place throughout Blum’s 18-year tenure on the Board of Regents, the newspaper reported.
Blum, a financier, told The Chronicle that “no one ever told me it was wrong.” He said he has sent letters of recommendation about friends and family to chancellors at multiple UC campuses since becoming a regent in 2002. “Wherever they were applying. Wherever they wanted to get in.” He recalled sending letters specifically to the chancellors at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Irvine, but added: “almost everywhere.”
Regents Chair John Pérez issued a statement Thursday saying the “UC Board of Regents takes these matters very seriously, and any violations will be promptly and appropriately addressed.”
He said that UC’s ethics and audit compliance office is reviewing the information “to determine whether the alleged conduct violates” the regents policy, in place since 1996.
Feinstein’s office declined to comment.
The audit examined admissions policies and practices over the six academic years from 2013-2014 to 2018-2019 at four of the UC’s nine campuses — UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara.
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It was requested last year by state Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath in response to the national college admissions scandal, which embroiled prestigious universities nationwide, athletic coaches, and dozens of wealthy parents.
The Horn News and The Associated Press contributed to this article