Red to Blue California, a political action committee aimed at flipping 10 Republican-controlled California congressional seats, sent out a campaign mailer Wednesday alleging Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, accepted a $1 million personal loan from a campaign donor.
While Valadao did accept the loan, the advertisement’s inference that Valadao is receiving personal loans in exchange for votes in Congress is misleading. The loan was given out years before Valadao served in Congress and has since been paid back.
The ad features Valadao’s face pasted onto a body holding a sign that reads “votes 4 cash.”
The donor referred to is Delbert Ray Ellis, who lists his occupation only as “retired” on campaign documents. He donated a total of $13,100 to Valadao’s campaign in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 election cycles. He has not donated in 2018.
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According to Valadao’s financial disclosure forms, Ellis loaned Valadao between $1 million and $5 million as real estate financing for Valadao Dairy in Hanford in May 2008 – four years before Valadao became a congressman and two years before he was elected to the state Assembly.
Valadao’s campaign told The Bee on Tuesday that the congressman paid off the loan in August 2016. It does not appear as an outstanding debt on his most recent congressional disclosure form, filed in June and covering all of 2017.
The congressman’s family dairy businesses have struggled in recent years, as many local dairies have. In March, agricultural lender Rabobank took control of several Valadao family dairies, selling off the cattle, feed and equipment to cover unpaid debts.