LOS ANGELES — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an ethics investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving the author of legislation aimed at killing California's $68 billion high-speed rail project.
The watchdog group questioned why California Rep. David Valadao failed to tell colleagues that the project could affect the property values of his family's Central Valley farmland, according to the organization's prepared statement.
The group filed a complaint with the OCE alleging that the Republican from Hanford "abused his position on the House Appropriations Committee to advance his personal financial interests," according to the statement.
Valadao successfully added an amendment to the House's transportation and housing bill, H.B. 2014, without telling colleagues he owned farmland in the state's Central Valley that would be impacted by the current proposed alignment of the rail line, CREW alleges.
His family operates Valadao Dairy, which owns hundreds of acres of land along the proposed path of the high-speed rail project.
"Failing to inform his appropriations committee that he stood to benefit from the amendment is not merely inexcusable, it violates House rules," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in the prepared statement.
Valadao's bill, which would require the federal Surface Transportation Board to consider the project in its entirety rather than in segments, would kill the entire project, according to Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority's board.
Valadao said in a statement published in the Los Angeles Times that he has been "both consistent and clear on his opposition to high-speed rail since entering public life, regardless of the potential route."
House precedents dictate that members may vote on legislation when they are part of an affected class, but they may not sponsor legislation, advocate, or participate in a committee proceeding when their financial interests are at issue, according to CREW.