Rep. David Valadao’s Personal Stake in HSR
Tim Sheehan at the Fresno Bee reports on an interesting angle to Rep. David Valadao’s opposition to high speed rail – his family owns a dairy right in the project’s path:
Republican House members up and down the San Joaquin Valley are squarely opposed to California’s high-speed rail project, for which construction could begin this summer.
But while the issue is largely one of political philosophy for other GOP representatives, it hits much closer to home for Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, whose family’s Valadao Dairy owns property that stands to be affected by either of two high-speed routes being studied in Kings County….
Three Valadao Dairy parcels sit directly along one of the routes through Kings County — a line that skirts west of Hanford and generally follows the BNSF Railway freight tracks between Hanford and Corcoran. Those parcels amount to about 509 acres and have a combined assessed value of more than $1.8 million, according to a database on the Kings County Assessor’s Office website.
The largest of those parcels, at just over 402 acres and $1.14 million in value, also would be affected by a new road overpass associated with an east-of-Hanford bypass.
The article goes on to describe Valadao’s family dairy holdings in the Hanford area as well as House ethics rules regarding situations like this. The rules don’t formally preclude Valadao from proposing amendments and legislation that involve property he owns, and Valadao’s office says that they sought advice from the House Ethics Committee on the matter (but would not share what the advice was).
I’m not going to defend Valadao here, for any number of reasons. I will say that even if he did not have a personal stake in the issue, he would almost certainly oppose the high speed rail project anyway just as other Valley Republicans in Congress do, including Jeff Denham and Kevin McCarthy. All three have a clear political stake in opposing HSR – if they do not, then they will earn the ire and potentially even the opposition of the Republican Party’s funders, such as the Koch Brothers. In the Tea Party era, Republican members of Congress cannot do anything other than espouse an extremist agenda and survive politically – even if doing so destroys jobs and blocks infrastructure in their own district.
Still, Sheehan’s story does put Valadao on the defensive, and that can only be a good thing for HSR supporters.