Last summer, a Washington watchdog organization called for an investigation of Rep. David Valadao, alleging the Hanford Republican violated congressional ethics in his efforts to stop California’s high-speed rail project.
The House Ethics Committee last month dismissed the request.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, sent its request to the Office of Congressional Ethics after The Bee reported that several Valadao Dairy properties sit directly along one proposed high-speed rail route through Kings County, and that the family owns other parcels within a mile of two route options.
CREW said Valadao failed to reveal to his fellow Appropriations Committee members that his family’s property could be affected by the high-speed rail route, which critics have complained could diminish the value of farmland, homes and businesses on or near the line.
The Office of Congressional Ethics board took up the matter in November, voting 6-0 to recommend that the House Ethics Committee dismiss the allegation “because there is not a substantial reason to believe that a violation of House rules and standards of conduct occurred.”
That vote was then forwarded to the House Ethics Committee, which took up the matter last month. The Ethics Committee said in a letter to Valadao that it reviewed the Office of Congressional Ethics referral, as well as information Valadao himself supplied, and “voted to dismiss the matter.”
Valadao felt vindicated by the decision, and felt the complaint itself was politically motivated, said Tal Eslick, his chief of staff.
“Rep. Valadao has opposed this project since entering public life,” Eslick said. “He will not be bullied into silence by liberal D.C. political groups. High Speed Rail will negatively affect every single person in California as it draws taxpayer dollars away from public safety and education.”
Even as CREW’s initial complaint was making its way through the congressional bureaucracy, the organization last month renewed its request for the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Valadao.
This time, CREW said Valadao “once again abused his position to advance his personal financial interests” when he testified in opposition to the high-speed rail project before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The organization said Valadao testified, “but failed to inform his colleagues that he stands to benefit financially if the project dies.”
On Friday, CREW said it stood by its calls for an investigation.
“The dismissal of the complaint is clearly incompatible with House rules that clearly require members to disclose their personal financial interest in legislation they introduce,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director. “Neither the OCE nor the ethics committee explained the discrepancy between the rules and Mr. Valadao’s conduct. CREW remains convinced the congressman violated conflict of interest rules.”