If allegations about expense reports from Del. Timothy D. Hugo’s campaign committee are accurate, Mr. Hugo (R-Fairfax) clearly represents an outlier. But it does not follow , as The Post argued in its Aug. 24 editorial “ An ethical vacuum in Virginia ,” that the commonwealth has “a political system in which anything goes.” In fact, quite the contrary; if that were true, Mr. Hugo would not be an outlier and, assuredly, a single outlier does not an “ethical vacuum” make.
The editorial failed to appreciate Virginia’s long history of honest government, particularly compared to the other two major jurisdictions in The Post’s circulation area, which have stricter ethics laws. Lapses in judgment by officials in the commonwealth have been few and far between. This explains why the reaction of lawmakers to the allegations against Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), according to The Post, has been “strangely subdued.” Officials are not going to accuse colleagues of “violations” in the absence of laws, The Post’s cause du jour.
As a matter of public policy, in Virginia’s case it may be desirable, in light of recent experience, to amend existing statutes to allow for greater transparency. In retrospect, such revisions will be seen for what they are: bandages over bruised character.
The resort to such “reforms” has its downside. As regulation becomes more complex, the greater the chance of a lawmaker inadvertently making a mistake. He or she may even correct the error before it has been reported in the media. No matter; it’s still a gotcha.
Andrew Pickens Miller, Washington
The writer, a Democrat, was Virginia’s attorney general from 1970 to 1977.
“An ethical vacuum in Virginia” was devastating. It reminded me of the famous explanation, often attributed to Willie Sutton, of why someone would rob banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” The editorial explained the caliber of people attracted to public service. This is a shameful state of affairs for what once was the cradle of our revolution. Does anyone think this system is going to accommodate change?
Cathy Clary, Afton, Va.