CREW Files New Ethics Complaint Against Rep. David Valadao Over HSR
Last year Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics complaint against Kings County Republican Congressman David Valadao. He attempted to block construction of high speed rail in the Valley – an action that would benefit his family’s farming operations.
Last week CREW filed a new complaint against Valadao on the same issue:
Last week, CREW filed a “renewed request” (pdf) for an investigation along the same lines, just days after the omnibus spending bill became law, apparently devoid of the Valadao amendment.
The complaint argued that Valadao most recently failed to tell his colleagues about his financial stake when arguing against the project before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. House rules allow members to vote on issues where they may have a financial interest, but frown upon lawmakers sponsoring, advocating or participating in committee hearings about them.
Valadao’s amendment would have forced the federal Surface Transportation Board to approve a completed rail network plan as opposed to individual segments on a case-by-case basis. California is in no position to offer such a completed plan. The project, heavily favored by the governor, is facing challenges at the state and local level that practically have it on life-support. A delay like this would almost certainly kill it.
Its death would benefit Valadao and his family, which own numerous pieces of property in and around Hanford. Although the state is now actively considering a second Hanford route that would have less impact on the dairy, it would still be problematic for the family.
The Fresno Bee identified three parcels owned by a partnership which includes the congressman that would be directly affected by one of the routes. The land is valued at around $1.8 million. The partnership owns six parcels within a mile of one or both lines, valued at $1.38 million, and family members own four parcels within a mile worth $6.2 million.
“It seems Rep. Valadao is no more familiar with House ethics rules now than he was six months ago when he first violated them,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “As he continues to flout his obligation to inform his colleagues of his financial conflict of interest, it is all the more urgent that the Office of Congressional Ethics conduct a full investigation.”
Because Republicans control the House of Representatives, it’s highly unlikely that Valadao will be investigated, since unfortunately Congress has not seen fit to allow a fully independent institution to investigate and punish members who violate ethics rules.
And there’s no doubt that Valadao, like other Valley Republicans, would oppose HSR even if his family dairies weren’t in the way of the project.
But none of those facts excuse Valadao’s behavior. An ethical person would recuse himself from any votes involving that segment of the HSR project and would certainly not be offering any amendments that would lead to a clear financial gain for him. In fact, given that fellow Valley Republicans are (wrongly) already actively working against the project, there’s no reason at all for Valadao to weigh in with these kinds of proposals. He’s trying to score political points, but is doing so in an unethical fashion.
Since we can’t expect Congress to police itself, I suppose the best way of dealing with this is to ensure Valadao’s unethical actions fail and that high speed rail gets built anyway. After all, his constituents will benefit significantly from the project. In the end, that’s what matters most.