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California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has once again made it back into the headlines because of the unscrupulous actions of her husband, investment banker Richard Blum, who according to reports also serves as a regent of the University of California.
Blum is indirectly referenced in an 82-page state audit of the university’s admission process released by California State Auditor Elaine Howle this week.
The audit cites “14 cases” involving UC Berkeley applicants who “received uncompetitive scores” from the school’s application readers but were admitted anyway because of their “connections to donors, staff, or influential individuals.”
“One case from these 14 admissions decisions is particularly problematic. UC Berkeley appears to have admitted this student because of an inappropriate letter of support from a university Regent,” the audit reads.
“University policy states that members of the Board of Regents should not seek to influence inappropriately the outcome of admissions decisions beyond sending letters of recommendation, when appropriate, through the regular admissions process.”
But the unnamed regent skipped “the regular admissions process” and instead penned a letter to “to UC Berkeley’s chancellor advocating for the applicant.”
The letter then made its way to the admissions office, where staff members approved the applicant despite the applicant having “about a 26 percent chance of being admitted to UC Berkeley on their own.” This is a problem.
The audit doesn’t specify when this occurred.
The information that’s available can be read starting from the bottom of page 30 (listed as 24) of the audit published below:
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times issued following the publication of the audit above, Howle’s office confirmed that the unnamed regent is in fact Blum, who according to the Times “has given his alma mater millions of dollars over the years.”
Board of Regents chairman John A. Pérez likewise confirmed to the Times that his team’s now reviewing the information available to determine whether an investigation is necessary.
“The UC Board of Regents takes these matters very seriously and any violations will be promptly and appropriately addressed. Once the Board determines and carefully evaluates the facts of the case, we will comment on the outcome and will further review if any changes in policy are called for,” he said.
Blum “declined to comment” to the Times about the matter but did issue a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle proclaiming his innocence.
He reportedly said “he’s done nothing wrong and has been writing letters on behalf of many friends and family for years,” according to the paper.
“I did it a bunch of times,” he said in his own words, adding that he’s never experienced any problems writing recommendation letters directly to the school’s chancellor.
It appears he was telling the truth. According to one former UC Santa Cruz chancellor who spoke with the Times, it was commonplace for regents and donors to advocate on behalf of certain applicants.
“It is not uncommon for UC campus chancellors to receive letters or calls of support from regents and donors about favored applicants. George Blumenthal, who served as UC Santa Cruz chancellor for 13 years before stepping down last year, said he would typically receive several such appeals a year,” the Times noted.
“He said he would respond with a form letter telling them he could not do anything to affect the admissions process and forward the information to admissions officers, making it clear they were not to let it influence their decisions.”
This suggests the problem is and has always been systemic, which may explain why those specific individuals who’ve gotten caught up in the ongoing college admissions scandal have received uncharacteristically light sentences for their crimes.
Take disgraced Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin, who’d pulled strings, paid oodles of money and committed fraud to get her two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California. Yet she was sentenced to only two months in prison, to be served at her prison of choice, while her co-conspirator (her husband) received only five months.
LeBron James has a BIG beef with Lori Loughlin’s special prison treatment https://t.co/udPG2wcLeg
— Jack Furnari (@JackBPR) September 20, 2020
As for Blum, this marks the second time in less than a year that his actions have drawn scrutiny to his wife, Sen. Feinstein.
Last March news emerged that Feinstein had sold major holdings in several stocks just days before the stock market plunged because of the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic. This news led to the senator being questioned by the FBI.
“Sen. Dianne Feinstein has turned over documents to the FBI and answered questions from law-enforcement officials about her husband’s controversial stock trades, a spokesman for the California Democrat said,” Politico reported in mid-May.
“Feinstein … spoke with the agency ‘voluntarily’ and ‘provided additional documents to show she had no involvement in her husband’s transactions,’ the spokesman added. Feinstein has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the transactions.”
She was cleared about a week later.
“The Justice Department is dropping its inquiry into Sen. Dianne Feinstein over stock trades made as the novel coronavirus struck the U.S. and roiled the economy,” the Times confirmed.
Four months later, Blum is again drawing scrutiny, though at least this time he hasn’t dragged his wife into his own mess — or at least not yet.
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