Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Dianne Feinstein poised to be new head of Senate Judiciary Committee

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) takes to Senate floor

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U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks to members of the media after a hearing on the Benghazi attack last month. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The death of Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye has unlocked the seniority door at the U.S. Senate.  

California Senator Dianne Feinstein could jump committee chairs, putting her in a position to influence major legislation on gun control and immigration.

Feinstein currently serves as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which meets behind closed doors and only speaks formally to the news media once year. She also sits on the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

But the death of Senator Inouye means there is an opening at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Leahy is next in line. Leahy said he'll decide Wednesday whether he wants to move over from Judiciary to Appropriations. And next in line at Judiciary is Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein would be poised as Judiciary chair to champion two issues close to her heart: immigration and gun control.

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Money, money, money in California Congressional races

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) isn't facing serious competition in November, so she's using her fundraising prowess to help other Democrats.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the biggest campaign fundraiser in California is Dianne Feinstein, who’s spent more than two decades in the U.S. Senate. According to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission, Feinstein has raised more than $8.2 million this season.

Sen. Feinstein's GOP challenger, Elizabeth Emken, has not yet filed her October quarterly fundraising report. But the Center for Responsive Politics says Emken, who’s run a persistent online campaign, has raised less money than some House members: $189,000.

Feinstein has more than $3 million in cash on hand. That's enough to help out fellow Democrats, including a $200,000 check to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Feinstein is still recovering from having her campaign fund cleaned out last year by Kinde Durkee, described as "the Bernie Madoff of campaign treasurers." Feinstein doesn't have exact figures for the missing cash, though her FEC statement lists more than $100,000 this quarter.

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