Dirty Business as Usual at California High Speed Rail

Photo: New York Times

Photo: New York Times

Out of the entire universe of those who could have won the first phase construction contract for California’s high speed rail boondoggle, who would stand out as the last person who would win it if there were no political patronage.

Put another way, who is the most likely person to win it if there is political patronage?

Feinstein-one eyeBoth questions have the same answer: Richard Blum, the husband of California senator Diane Feinstein.

So, who won the contract?  Blum, of course, as the principle owner of Tutor Perini, the lead firm in the three-firm consortium selected by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Yes, Diane, it really does look that bad to us little people.

A High Low Bid

The Perini-Zachary-Parsons bid was the lowest received from the five consortia participating in the bidding process, but “low” is a relative term. The firms bid $985,142,530 to build the wildly anticipated first section of high speed rail track that will tie the megopolis of Madera to the global finance center of Fresno. Do the division, and you find that the low bid came in at a mere $35 million per mile.

And that doesn’t include the cost of rolling stock (that’s engines and cars to the normal among us). Nor does it include the cost of electrifying the route. Does it at least include the cost of land acquisition? No, it does not.

As this fiasco progress, remember that this $35 million per mile represents the best California can do on the section of track the High on Crack Speed Rail Authority selected to go first because it will be the cheapest.

Keeping Corrupt Company

Just having Blum/Perini win the contract is corrupt enough. But it gets much more corrupt, says The National Black Chamber of Commerce:

According to the New York US Attorney’s office: “Following a four-week trial, a federal jury in Brooklyn yesterday (March 9, 2011) found Zohrab B. Marashlian, the former president of Perini Corp.’s Civil Division, an international construction services corporation, guilty of fraud and conspiracy to launder money. The charges arose out of Marashlian’s false representation to New York government agencies that Disadvantaged Business Entities (DBE’s) were performing work in connection with major public works contracts, when, in reality, Marashlian had non-disadvantaged businesses favored by Perini Corp. do the work.” Tutor Perini paid Marashlian $14 million in salary while all this was going on. Two days before Marashlian was to receive a multi-year prison sentence he committed suicide. A fellow employee is currently doing a long prison term for the same case.

Perini has been caught doing such things over and over again. They are absolutely ridiculous in California projects. …  According to the Seattle News some of the Perini headlines read: “In February, Tutor-Saliba and Perini agreed to pay $19 million to settle racketeering and fraud allegations in a San Francisco airport project.”“The companies are embroiled in an 11 – year legal battle over $16 million in extra costs on a Los Angeles subway job.”  (Emphasis added)

Lefties, who generally support the high speed rail project, are probably a bit flummoxed by this news because they have railed (nice pun,  huh?) against Blum and Feinstein for what they call criminal collusion in the granting of defense contracts.

Only in Crazifornia would the wheels still be on this train. But on and on and on it chugs, dodging all fiscal reality on its trip to the Great Sea of Red Ink.

12 thoughts on “Dirty Business as Usual at California High Speed Rail

  1. Sen. Feinstein is an embarassment to California and the U.S. Senate.

    Cali….you deserve everything you get when you re-elect buffoons like Miz. Feinstein.

  2. Hey Mikey!

    You remind me of the young lady who never got to have the conversation with her mother about s-e-x. The day of the wedding she asked her mother to tell her something, anything, about this “ritual”.

    The mother responded, “It’s simple. You only have sex the one way. After a week or two he’s going to want to change, a new position. You tell him ‘No! I’ll end the marriage.’ After that it will be business as usual and you will be happy for the rest of your life.”

    Comes the wedding night, all goes well. A couple of weeks later he wants to “change”. She says, “No. I’ll end the marriage.”

    “But,” the new hubby said, “I don’t understand. Don’t you ever want to have children?”

    In politics as with other things in life, Mikey, you have to look carefully at what you are doing and, sometimes more importantly, what is being done to you. See?

  3. DiFi, Queen Pelosi, Boxer, and of course, Gov Moonbeam. Does anyone wonder why the Golden State is dead. So painful to watch. The once greatest state in the union slowly becoming a third world bankrupt chunk of real estate.

  4. Welcome to the New World Order California. This is all laid out in the Agenda 21, Wildlands Project manuals. George Bush signed you up for this in 1992 and it’s also why Kennedy was assassinated. 7 days previously he declined an offer by the NWO then uncovered them in a speech because of what it would do to the US.


  5. Lest the Lo-info voters know, this is one corrupt Senator. Her whole state is corrupt, and those that vote for her, are anti-American.

  6. Cronyism at all levels of government. The liberals bash the Republicans for the cronyism in their projects. The liberals do not bash Democrats for their cronyism because in their distorted logic it is done for the good of the people. The proponents of big government always know better than the common people what they want regardless of what the people say. In the 1970′s, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of the greater Houston area held an election on light (commuter) rail and the public spoke. They voted it down. Rather than accept the will of the people, the MTA sold property it somehow had acquired and started the project anyway. When additional funding was needed the people had the choice of throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars that had already been spent or voting in favor of continuing the associated projects. In other words, the big government proponents shoved it down the people’s throats against their will, but it was for their “good”. And almost all the projects benefited some politician’s favorite contractor and almost all the projects had significant cost overruns.

  7. That section wasn’t selected because it was cheapest. It was selected because Congressman Jim Costa was facing a tough re-election campaign in 2010. Just a few weeks before the election, the Obama Administration gave California nearly $1 billion for the train ON THE CONDITION that it be spent in Costa’s district or in the district of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, who was also facing a close election. The administration also let Costa and Cardoza make the announcement instead of having US DOT do it as had been done for all previous rail grants. It worked: both won re-election by just a few thousand votes.

  8. The Costa election shenanigan is true and more evidence of the politicization of high speed rail. But it is also true that the Bakersfield-to-Modesto leg is anticipated to be one of the cheapest legs, if not the cheapest, in the system because it is flat and requires less condemnation and purchase of very expensive real estate.

  9. Is Blum indeed the “principle (sic) owner of Tutor Perini”?? Tutor Perini is a publicly-traded company. Blum and/or his investment firm are not listed as major holders of the stock and certainly not principal owners. See http://finance.yahoo.com/q/mh?s=TPC+Major+Holders for details. While it’s true he *used to be* a principal owner, I see no proof that this is still true, which pretty much rips the guts out of the main point of the article.

    High speed rail is indeed a boondoggle and the way the contract was awarded is dubious (see the LA Times article), but to say that Feinstein steered the contract to her husband or a company he is a major owner of seems completely false.

  10. David C. – I’ll have to look into the ownership. It’s certainly not true just because the L A Times says it’s true. On Feinstein, I think it’s just as likely the High Speed Rail Authority did it to curry Feinstein’s favor, although Feinstein certainly could have pushed them.

  11. $1B was the low bid for a high-speed rail system that doesn’t include land rights, actual trains, and power for the rail?? Seems like a waste of money for a state that is already strapped for cash. The money could be better spent fixing existing roads and bridges that need repair/replacement.

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