Illustration by ED STEED via Esquire
ESQUIRE: Nunes has always been reliably conservative, but on some issues, he has broken with his party. He has long supported moderate immigration reform, for instance, including amnesty for many undocumented people living and working in the U.?S. But as Trump has instituted a draconian policy of zero tolerance for all undocumented people and argued that every undocumented individual should be deported, Nunes has been silent. More recently, as Trump and the House Republicans have celebrated Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the agency’s aggressive tactics, Nunes has followed suit. On CaRepublican.com—a Nunes-created news site, which mimics the Drudge Report—he now regularly highlights articles attacking Democrats for being insufficiently supportive of ICE’s raids and deportations.
Which brings us back to Nunes’s secret.
Nunes grew up in a family of dairy farmers in Tulare, California, and as long as he has been in politics, his family dairy has been central to his identity and a feature of every major political profile written about him. A March story in National Review is emblematic. It describes how Nunes’s family emigrated from the Azores in Portugal to California’s Central Valley, “a fertile, sunny Eden,” and how the family “worked and saved enough money to buy a 640-acre farm outside Tulare.” The soil of the Central Valley is depicted as almost sacred in these articles. National Review quotes a 1912 Portuguese immigrant farmer who wrote that when he grabs a clump of dirt, “I feel as if I had just shaken hands with all my ancestors.” As recently as July 27, the lead of a Wall Street Journal editorial-page piece about Nunes, which featured a Tulare dateline, emphasized the dairy: “It’s 105 degrees as I stand with Rep. Devin Nunes on his family’s dairy farm.” Last year, Nunes noted in an interview with the Daily Beast—headline: “The Dairy Farmer Overseeing U.?S. Spies and the Russia Hack Investigation”—“I’m pretty simple. I like agriculture.” The Daily Beast noted, “The cows are not far from his mind. He keeps in regular contact with his brother and father about their dairy farm.”
So here’s the secret: The Nunes family dairy of political lore—the one where his brother and parents work—isn’t in California. It’s in Iowa. Devin; his brother, Anthony III; and his parents, Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, sold their California farmland in 2006. Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, who has also been the treasurer of every one of Devin’s campaigns since 2001, used their cash from the sale to buy a dairy eighteen hundred miles away in Sibley, a small town in northwest Iowa where they—as well as Anthony III, Devin’s only sibling, and his wife, Lori—have lived since 2007. Devin’s uncle Gerald still owns a dairy back in Tulare, which is presumably where The Wall Street Journal’s reporter talked to Devin, and Devin is an investor in a Napa Valley winery, Alpha Omega, but his immediate family’s farm—as well as his family—is long gone.
There’s nothing particularly strange about a congressman’s family moving. But what is strange is that the family has apparently tried to conceal the move from the public—for more than a decade. […] I went to Sibley to find out [why]. Things got a little strange. MORE