* Served as mayor of San Francisco from 1978 until 1988
* Was elected U.S. Senator from California in 1992
* Supported the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015
* Has noteworthy ties to Communist China
Dianne Feinstein was born as Dianne Emiel Goldman on June 22, 1933 in San Francisco. While attending Stanford University in early 1955, she supported a movement to bring Soviet student-newspaper editors to the U.S. for “guided tours.” Moreover, she hosted Soviet journalists who visited the Stanford campus on an exchange program and was a frequent speaker at events held by the Stanford Political Union, an organization that engaged prominent public officials in policy discussions. Feinstein graduated from Stanford University later in 1955 with a BS degree in history.
In 1960, then-Governor Pat Brown (father of another California Governor, Jerry Brown) appointed Feinstein to the California State Board of Parole, a post she held until 1966.
In 1968 Feinstein became a member of the San Francisco Committee on Crime, and in 1969 she was elected to the city’s Board of Supervisors (SFBS), where she became president nine years later. While serving on SFBS, Feinstein, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of San Francisco in 1971 and 1975.
In December 1973, Feinstein was one of three SFBS members to propose a resolution urging the San Francisco Retirement System Board to completely divest its assets from apartheid South Africa.
After San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were both assassinated at City Hall on November 27, 1978, Feinstein succeeded Moscone as acting mayor. And in January 1979, she appointed the well-known Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee member Harry Britt to succeed Milk. Feinstein went on to serve as mayor until 1988.
In 1985, Mayor Feinstein issued a proclamation in support of that year’s World Festival of Youth and Students, a Moscow event which was organized by the Soviet front group World Federation of Democratic Youth, and which was supported as well by the Communist Party USA. That December, Feinstein traveled to Moscow to attend a trade council meeting that called for the removal of restrictions on trade between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
In February 1986, Feinstein was a sponsor of a testimonial dinner in Los Angeles honoring Harry Bridges, a longtime anti-capitalist and suspected Communist who had served as founder and president of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union. In the late 1990s, Feinstein endorsed a project to create a plaza (with a statue) in honor of Bridges and his legacy.
In a 1990 campaign endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, Feinstein ran unsuccessfully for governor of California. In 1992 she won a special election for the U.S. Senate (representing her home state) and has been re-elected every six years since then.
In November 2011, Feinstein praised the Los Angeles chapter of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its “unwavering” and “truly praiseworthy” efforts to “educate and introduce Americans to positive aspects of the Muslim community.”
In early 2013, Feinstein and a number of fellow elected officials and political activists — most of whom were aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America — endorsed a proposal urging President Barack Obama to award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Fred Ross Sr., a radical who had been trained by Saul Alinsky and had served as a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
In December 2014, Feinstein issued a statement harshly critical of CIA detention and interrogation measures such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding, characterizing those tactics as a “stain on our values and our history.”
In 2015, Feinstein supported the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal whereby the Obama administration and the governments of five other nations agreed to allow the Islamist regime in Tehran to enrich uranium, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. She characterized the accord as evidence that Iran’s president and foreign minister “do want to move the country in a more moderate direction.” In 2017 Feinstein asserted that “the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran was finally blocked” by the “historic” deal.
In 2017, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a devoted Roman Catholic, was nominated by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. When Barrett testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the panel, questioned her about an article she had written in 1998 for the Marquette Law Review. In that piece, titled “Catholic Judges in Capital Cases,” Barrett had stated that a Catholic trial judge who is a conscientious objector to capital punishment should recuse himself if asked to enter an order of execution. Barrett told Feinstein that the article had confined itself to a narrow set of circumstances, and that she had indeed participated in death penalty cases as a law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. But Feinstein was uneasy with Barrett’s position and said to her: “Why is it that so many of us on this [Democrat] side have this very uncomfortable feeling that dogma and law are two different things, and I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. The conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” Barrett replied: “It is never appropriate for a judge to apply their personal convictions, whether it derives from faith or personal conviction.”
While questioning Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his September 2018 Senate confirmation hearing, Feinstein sought to determine whether Kavanaugh viewed the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision as settled law. Said the senator: “In the 1950s and ’60s, the two decades before Roe, deaths from illegal abortions in this country ran between 200,000 and 1.2 million. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute. So, a lot of women died in that period…. I don’t want to go back to those death tolls in this country.” But the Guttmacher estimate referred to the number of illegal abortions performed each year during the pre-Roe period, not the number of women who died after those procedures. According to multiple estimates, the actual number of women who died due to abortions was less than 1,000 annually.
On September 13, 2018 — one week before the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on the Kavanaugh nomination — Feinstein (the Committee’s ranking member) tried to derail the nomination by publicly floating unspecified allegations by an unnamed female accuser who purportedly claimed that the 53-year-old Kavanaugh had engaged in “possible sexual misconduct” against her 36 years earlier, when both were in high school. Feinstein said in a statement: “I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities” — i.e., the FBI. Feinstein had received this letter about six weeks earlier, in July 2018, but had remained silent about it until September 13.
A few days later, the woman publicly revealed her name: Christine Blasey Ford. A professor of clinical psychology at Palo Alto University in California, Ford was a registered Democrat who had donated money to Bernie Sanders, ActBlue, and EMILY’s List (nearly four-dozen donations to the latter). In April 2017, she had participated in a so-called “March for Science” in San Francisco, protesting the Trump administration’s alleged plan to cut funding for scientific research. In June 2018, she had joined numerous colleagues in signing onto a Physicians for Human Rights letter demanding that the Trump administration stop enforcing federal immigration laws that sometimes required authorities to separate children from their parents if they were caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border together.
After Kavanaugh — at a September 27, 2018 hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee — became indignant at Democratic Senators for smearing him on the strength of Ford’s uncorroborated charges, Feinstein asserted that Kavanaugh had shown himself to be temperamentally unsuited for the Supreme Court. Said the senator: “This was not someone who reflected an impartial temperament or the fairness and even handedness one would see in a judge. This was someone who was aggressive and belligerent. I have never seen someone who wants to be elevated to the highest court in our country behave in that manner.”
On March 19, 2021, Feinstein released a statement saying that, contrary to her previously articulated position, she was now supportive of ending the Senate filibuster. “There are many significant issues Congress needs to address,” she explained, including “gun violence, violence against women, and hate in the tragic shootings in Atlanta.” “Ideally the Senate can reach bipartisan agreement on those issues, as well as on a voting rights bill,” Feinstein wrote in a press release. “But if that proves impossible and Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster by requiring cloture votes, I’m open to changing the way the Senate filibuster rules are used.”
Shortly after the opening of U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations in 1979, then-San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein established a “sister city” relationship between her own city and Shanghai. Soon thereafter, Feinstein – accompanied by her third husband, investment banker Richard Blum – led a mayoral delegation to China. According to The Federalist, the Feinsteins would take such trips together “many times over the ensuing years as the relationship between both Feinsteins and China grew.”
Prior to the early 1980s, participants in San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade had traditionally displayed the flag of the Nationalist Chinese government, which had ruled Taiwan ever since Mao Zedong‘s conquest of mainland China in 1949. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, then-mayor Feinstein “asked organizers to stop the partisan practice because she wanted to encourage trade with China.”
Also during the 1980s, Mayor Feinstein cultivated a close friendship with Shanghai Mayor Jiang Zemin — a relationship that greatly helped the Communist Party of China establish a relationship with the U.S. government. For instance, Feinstein and Jiang visited one another multiple times throughout the ’80s, with Jiang once spending Thanksgiving in San Francisco with the mayor and her husband. Jiang’s ties to Feinstein became particularly significant when the former became General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 1989, and President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993.
As noted above, Feinstein was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992. As the decade progressed thereafter, her links to China became increasingly lucrative for her and her husband. Journalist Ben Weingarten reports, for example: “In May 1993, Feinstein expressed her strong support on the Senate floor for continued trading with China. Contemporaneously, her husband was seeking to raise up to $150 million from investors, including himself, for a variety of Chinese enterprises.”
In August 1993, Feinstein and Blum were invited by President Jiang to participate in extensive meetings with Chinese political leaders. In November 1994, the Los Angeles Times reported that “according to American experts in Chinese business practices,” “Feinstein’s consistent support for China’s interests cannot help but benefit her husband’s efforts to earn profits there.”
In 1994 as well, Feinstein returned $12,000 in campaign contributions from people with connections to the Indonesia-based Lippo Bank, which was an arm of a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate owned by the Riady family, whose members not only had a longstanding relationship with a Chinese intelligence agency, but were also close friends and supporters of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Feinstein pushed hard for the U.S. government to grant permanent “most-favored-nation” trading status to China, and she was one of the Senate’s staunchest proponents of closer relations between Washington and Beijing. This was particularly true after 1995, when she became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (where she could exert much influence vis-a-vis support for China’s trade privileges). Meanwhile, Blum vastly expanded his own private business interests in China. When Feinstein made three visits to confer with President Jiang Zemin and other senior government officials in Beijing during 1995-96, Blum accompanied the senator each time at his own expense and attended many of those meetings – an arrangement described by the Los Angeles Times as “an unusual degree of access for a private businessman.”
When Feinstein was first elected to the Senate in 1992, the total value of the interests that Blum held in China amounted to less than $500,000. Soon thereafter, this increased dramatically:
● In 1996, Newbridge Capital, the investment firm that Blum had formed two years earlier, paid $23 million for a stake in a Chinese government-owned steel enterprise, Beilong Iron & Steel Group, and also acquired large interests in the country’s top producers of soybean milk and candy.
● As of 1997, Newbridge Capital had two investments with partners originally from the China International Trade and Investment Corporation, a $20-billion, state-owned conglomerate that was China’s most influential financial enterprise.
● Newbridge Capital managing director Peter Kwok served as a consultant to a unit of the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Company, which won rights to build a $200-million cargo terminal at the site of the closed Long Beach Naval Station.
● Blum’s largest investment – an estimated $300-million stake in Northwest Airlines, which at that time provided the only nonstop flights from the U.S. to China – was positioned to profit mightily from China’s growth as an economic power.
During the mid-1990s as well, Feinstein downplayed the seriousness of the brutal human-rights abuses for which the Chinese government had become infamous. “Chinese society continues to open up with looser ideological controls, freer access to outside sources of information and increased media reporting,” she wrote in 1996. In February 1997, Feinstein drew a moral equivalence between China and the U.S. by calling for the creation of a commission whose purpose would be to study “the evolution of human rights in both countries over the last 20 or 30 years,” and, in the process, “point out the success and failures [of] both Tiananmen Square and Kent State.”
In a March 1997 news conference, Feinstein revealed that the FBI had warned her that the Chinese government might attempt to make illegal contributions to her Senate campaign fund. Only five other members of Congress receive such a warning.
Also in the mid- to late 1990s, Blum’s Newbridge Capital firm invested more than $400 million into East Asian businesses, several of which were partly owned by, or founded by, the Chinese government. “If nothing else,” notes The Federalist, “Blum still stood to profit handsomely from management fees for these portfolios.”
From 1997-2005, two of Blum’s companies, URS Corporation and Perini Corporation, had contracts with the U.S. Defense Department – with Feinstein’s knowledge. During those years, Feinstein lobbied Pentagon officials to support certain defense projects that already had been, or eventually would be, contracted out to the Blum companies. Between 2001 and 2005 alone, URS and Perini earned $792 million and $759 million, respectively, from military-construction and environmental-cleanup projects approved by the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee.
In May 2000, Feinstein lobbied in favor of the permanent normalization of U.S. trade relations with China. The subsequent passage of that measure made it possible for China to join the World Trade Organization, a move that Feinstein likewise supported. A spokesperson for Feinstein asserted that the senator’s husband, Blum, had fully divested his holdings in mainland China by 1999, but Blum in fact still owned a stake in a Newbridge Capital Asia fund that contained investments in China.
In April 2009, the Washington Times reported that Feinstein had introduced legislation to give $25 billion in public money to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, just after the FDIC had given her husband (Blum) a lucrative contract permitting his real estate firm to sell foreclosed properties for prices higher than the industry norms. The Times noted: “Mrs. Feinstein’s intervention on behalf of the [FDIC] was unusual: the California Democrat isn’t a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments – not direct federal dollars.”
While traveling in China in June 2010, a Wall Street Journal interviewer asked Feinstein to reflect on the horrors of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, where government troops gunned down a large number of civilian protesters. In her reply, Feinstein tried to minimize the brutality of those events: “I think that was a great setback for China in the view of the world. And I think China has also – as we would – learned lessons from it. It just so happens I was here after that and talked to Jiang Zemin and learned that at the time China had no local police. It was just the PLA [People’s Liberation Army]. And no local police that had crowd control. So, hence the tanks. Clearly none of that made good sense. But that’s the past. One learns from the past. You don’t repeat it. I think China has learned a lesson.”
In the same 2010 interview, Feinstein objected to the Obama administration’s sale of $6.4 billion worth of military equipment to Taiwan, characterizing the deal as a “substantial irritant” to U.S.-China relations.
In August 2018, media reports revealed that from about 1993 to 2013, a Feinstein staffer named Russell Lowe had secretly worked not only for the senator but also as a spy for Communist China. According to Politico magazine, Lowe, who served Feinstein as an “office director” and “a liaison to the local Chinese community,” was secretly “reporting back” information to Chinese intelligence services during that period. In response to this revelation, Feinstein tweeted on August 4, 2018: “The FBI told me 5 years ago it had concerns that China was seeking to recruit an administrative member of my Calif staff (despite no access to sensitive information). I took those concerns seriously, learned the facts and made sure the employee left my office immediately.” Notably, the senator said nothing about the fact that her office had employed Lowe for almost 20 years and had authorized him to represent Feinstein in interactions with Chinese government officials.
During a July 30, 2020 Senate Judiciary Committee debate on a bill designed to allow individuals to sue the Chinese government for its mishandling and coverup of the coronavirus outbreak which had already killed more than 150,000 Americans, Feinstein said: “We hold China as a potential trading partner, as a country that has pulled tens of millions of people out of poverty in a short period of time, and as a country growing into a respectable nation amongst other nations. I deeply believe that.” Feinstein also said that depriving China of foreign sovereign immunity to such lawsuits would be a “huge mistake.”
Feinstein is one of the wealthiest senators in Washington, with a net worth of approximately $94 million as of January 2018, much of it coming from her husband, Richard Blum.
For an overview of Feinstein’s voting record on a wide array of key issues, click here.
Feinstein died on September 28, 2023. “In recent years,” said a New York Times story about the senator, “Ms. Feinstein, 90, had suffered from frail health and memory issues that made it difficult for her to function alone and prompted calls for her to step down, which she consistently rejected. Her condition had grown more acute over the past several months, after a bout with shingles that caused serious complications, including a case of encephalitis, and prompted her to begin using a wheelchair in the halls of the Capitol.”
For additional information on Dianne Feinstein, click here.
General Profile: “Dianne Feinstein” (Keywiki.org and Biography.com); “Here’s What Dianne Feinstein Said About the Torture Report” (Time, 12-9-2014); “Feinstein Claimed That As Many As 1.2 Million Women Died from Illegal Abortions Before Roe v. Wade” (CheckYourFact.com, 9-7-2018); “Democrats Send ‘Information’ Concerning Kavanaugh Nomination to FBI” (CNN, 9-13-2018); “Sen. Dianne Feinstein Rails against Brett Kavanaugh’s ‘Aggressive and Belligerent’ Behavior” (ABC News, 9-28-2018); “Who Are America’s Seven Richest Senators?” (Investopedia.com, 1-30-2018).
Feinstein’s Noteworthy Ties to China: “Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Ties To China Go Way Deeper Than An Alleged Office Spy” (by Ben Weingarten, The Federalist, 8-8-2018); “Feinstein, Husband Hold Strong China Connections” (Los Angeles Times, 3-28-1997); “Husband’s Business Ties Pose Dilemma for Feinstein” (Los Angeles Times, 10-28-1994); “Husband Invested in China as Feinstein Pushed Trade” (San Francisco Chronicle, 10-22-2000); “Senator’s Husband’s Firm Cashes in on Crisis” (Washington Times, 4-21-2009); “A Conversation with Dianne Feinstein” (Wall Street Journal, 6-6-2010).