CA House freshman on CREW’s ‘most corrupt’ list

A California freshman has been named one of Congress’ most corrupt members of 2013 by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

CREW’s list of the dirtiest 13 included four Democrats and nine Republicans including Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford; another two from each side of the aisle made the “dishonorable mention” list. Valadao was the only Californian called out, accused by CREW of abused his position on the House Appropriations Committee to benefit his own financial interests.

“Congressman Valadao has only been in Washington a few months, but it didn’t take long for him to abuse his position for his personal financial benefit,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a news release. “Americans expect their elected representatives will look out for their constituents’ interests. Rep. Valadao, on the other hand, apparently believes the purpose of his office is to look out solely for his own interests.”

David ValadaoValadao’s office issued a statement Wednesday afternoon calling this “nothing more than a misleading political attack.”

“Congressman Valadao has been opposed to High Speed Rail since entering public life. He campaigned, and was elected, on fighting High Speed Rail. This project is bad for the 21stCongressional District, the Central Valley, and California,” the statement said. “Congressman Valadao will continue to fight the High Speed Rail on behalf of his constituents.”

Valadao’s family operates Valadao Dairy, which owns hundreds of acres of land along the proposed path of California’s high-speed rail project, many opponents of which argue it will reduce their property values. Valadao in June successfully offered an amendment to the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for 2014, which would require that the federal Surface Transportation Board approve the high-speed rail project in its entirety rather than letting it incrementally approve the construction of new segments.

But CREW says as Valadao offered his amendment and twice argued for its adoption, he never told his fellow lawmakers about his financial interest in its passage. House rules say members can’t sponsor legislation, advocate or take part in a committee proceeding when their financial interests are at issue.

“Rep. Valadao seems to have skipped the ethics portion of new member orientation,” Sloan said. “Using his position to advance his personal financial interests is a serious infraction, not a freshman faux pas. In July, CREW asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate. We look forward to the results.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.