Email #188: “a different standard for the well-connected”?

You said to me in a letter in January that the “men and women elected to represent the American people should be held to the highest standards.”

You said in a press release last October: “folks continually tell me about the importance of following the rule of law as the best way to govern our country. Too often they have seen laws ignored with little or no consequences for those who break them, and want this to change.”

You said last summer that “none should be above the law” and that you were “troubled” that “there seems to be a different standard for the well-connected.”

I agree strongly with all of these statements.

Which is why I am so disappointed by your behavior regarding your speeding ticket in April. You were caught going 69 in 35 mph school zone. Though this is roughly double the limit and so reckless driving in an area especially dangerous for children, I understand that speeding tickets happen. I’ve had a few in my life too. I am more concerned that you then challenged the ticket in court and had it downgraded to avoid demerit points on your license.

The Roanoke Times reported that the amended charge is not standard for drivers with clean records as the county’s assistant attorney said. Regardless, the decision does not hold you “to the highest standards,” which you said elected officials should be held. As our Representative, you should be modeling the “importance of following the rule of law,” not using your experience and skill as a lawyer to reduce your punishment for violating one. Given your Congressional salary and multi-million net worth, the fine and court cost are certainly of “little or no consequence.” And as one of the most “well-connected” people in our district, you should be especially vigilant about not creating even the appearance of being “above the law.”

I’m confused why you didn’t simply pay the original fine and receive six demerit points for going more than twenty miles over the limit. Since you would have to receive another twelve points within the next year before being put on probation, the punishment would still have been inconsequential. But by challenging it and having it amended, you created the appearance of corruption. That would be true of any elected official. But since you are also the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, it shows startlingly poor judgment.

You owe your constituents an apology.


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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