DC Watchdog Group Calls for Ethics Probe for Rep. Valadao’s HSR Opposition
Last week Tim Sheehan of the Fresno Bee reported that David Valadao, a Republican member of Congress from Kings County, had a personal stake in high speed rail – several parcels owned by his family’s dairy sit in the path of the project. At the time it was reported that Valadao had sought advice from the House Ethics Committee on the matter, but would not share what the advice was.
Today one group has come forward to challenge Rep. Valadao on this issue. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – aka CREW – is seeking a probe into the ethics of Valadao’s actions on HSR given this property interest:
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch a probe into whether the Republican lawmaker “abused his position…to benefit his and his family’s financial interests.”
Valadao said in a statement that he has been “both consistent and clear on his opposition to high-speed rail since entering public life, regardless of the potential route.” He did not specifically address the watchdog group’s allegation….
In seeking an investigation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington cited a Fresno Bee story that Valadao’s family dairy owns Kings County property that could be affected by either of the two rail routes under consideration.
Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who heads the watchdog group, said that Valadao’s “failing to inform his appropriations committee colleagues that he stood to benefit from the amendment is not merely inexcusable, it violates House rules.”
According to the LA Times article, the Office of Congressional Ethics can either decide not to launch an investigation, or it can investigate and must make a report in 90 days. They then decide whether to refer the matter to the House Ethics Committee – controlled by Republicans – for further investigation and potential action.
It seems unlikely that the House Ethics Committee would ever actually bring any criticism or punishment to Valadao on this. But CREW is clearly interested in drawing attention to the matter and believes that his actions are in violation of the rules of the House. Valadao is on the defensive now, and that may have to be enough of a win for ethics watchdogs since the likelihood of House Ethics Committee action seems remote.