Even if you can’t get a straight answer, at least give Rep. David Valadao’s staff credit for staying on message.
The freshman Republican congressman from Hanford (right) has been steadfast in his opposition to California’s high-speed rail plans. That opposition was most recently demonstrated when Valadao, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, successfully pitched an amendment to a spending bill that could stall work on the high-speed rail project in the Valley and statewide for years, and jeopardize some federal stimulus funds that were already approved for initial construction in the central San Joaquin Valley — including through the heart of his district in Kings County.
Over the past couple of weeks, The Bee has queried Valadao’s staff about his high-speed rail opposition, his recent actions in the Appropriations Committee — and his family dairy’s ownership of hundreds of acres of land that sits directly along the path of high-speed tracks south of Hanford.
Since one major concern of high-speed rail critics is the potential loss of property value for land along the rail routes, Valadao’s staff was asked if the congressman had told his Appropriations Committee colleagues about his family’s property interests on the rail route, and what his obligations are under House conflict of interest rules to inform the committee.
A Valadao spokeswoman said he had filed, as a member of Congress and earlier in the state Assembly, the appropriate financial disclosure forms. The statements added that Valadao “opposes high-speed rail regardless of the route or whose property is affected,” and that he has opposed it since before he was ever elected to office.
But that didn’t really address the questions.
Earlier this week, after Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning Washington watchdog group, asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate Valadao for a possible conflict of interest, the congressman’s staff again avoided answering whether or not Valadao believed there was any conflict of interest in offering, arguing and voting for his Appropriations Committee amendment, or whether Valadao is concerned about the call for an investigation into the propriety of his actions without telling the committee about his family’s property interests along the rail route.
While no answers were forthcoming Tuesday, Valadao’s chief of staff was kind enough to email a new photo of the congressman.
It wasn’t until Thursday that Valadao spokeswoman Anna Vetter responded — sort of — to the latest questions.
“Congressman Valadao has submitted all of the proper documentation of his economic interest, including property, both during his time in the California Assembly and United States Congress,” her statement read. “Congressman Valadao will not be bullied into silence by outlandish accusations by extreme liberal organizations for their own political gain. He will continue to fight this wasteful project in order to best represent the values and opinions of those who elected him.”
The economic disclosure filed with the House clerk, however, doesn’t detail any specific parcel or property ownership, but the statement represents a continuation of a consistent message over the past two weeks. As for being “bullied into silence,” so far the only thing Valadao’s office is being silent about is actually answering the central questions:
Is Valadao’s position that there is no conflict of interest by advocating for legislation that could ultimately spare his own property (along with the property of many others) from losing value because of the rail line? Did he ever directly tell his fellow committee members that his family owns property along the route? And did he have an obligation to tell his colleagues about the property interests?