Bob Goodlatte

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Bob Goodlatte
Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byLamar Smith
Succeeded byJerry Nadler
Chair of the House Agriculture Committee
In office
May 31, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byLarry Combest
Succeeded byCollin Peterson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byJim Olin
Succeeded byBen Cline
Personal details
Robert William Goodlatte

(1952-09-22) September 22, 1952 (age 71)
Holyoke, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Maryellen Flaherty
(m. 1974)
EducationBates College (BA)
Washington and Lee University (JD)

Robert William Goodlatte (/ˈɡʊdˌlæt/; born September 22, 1952) is an American politician, attorney, and lobbyist who served in the United States House of Representatives representing Virginia's 6th congressional district for 13 terms. A Republican, he was also the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over legislation affecting the federal courts, administrative agencies, and federal law enforcement entities. Goodlatte's district covered Roanoke and also included Lexington, Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, and Staunton.

In 2017, Goodlatte presided over a GOP effort, conducted in a secret session, to weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, a move widely criticized by House leaders and the opposition party. The proposal passed by a 119 to 74 vote, but it was withdrawn the following day after widespread public criticism.[1][2] On November 9, 2017, Goodlatte announced that he would not seek reelection in 2018.[3] In February 2020, Goodlatte registered as a lobbyist representing the Project for Privacy & Surveillance Accountability, a nonprofit.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Goodlatte was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the son of Doris B. (née Mentzendorff) and Robert Swan Goodlatte. His paternal ancestry includes English and Irish and his maternal grandfather was a Baltic German from Riga.[5] Goodlatte grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts.[6] Goodlatte received a B.A. in political science from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine in 1974. He also holds a Juris Doctor from Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia, received in 1977.[7]

Political and legal career[edit]

In his early professional career he served as a staff aide for 6th District U.S. Congressman M. Caldwell Butler from 1977 to 1979. Goodlatte went on to work as a lawyer in private practice from 1980 to 1993.[7]

U.S House of Representatives[edit]

Goodlatte during the 104th Congress
Goodlatte with President George W. Bush in 2006
Goodlatte with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Dennis Hastert in 2006
Goodlatte speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference
Goodlatte with President Donald Trump in 2017
Goodlatte watches as Paul Ryan signs the First Step Act of 2018

Bob Goodlatte received the Republican nomination at the Republican District convention after Democratic Party candidate Jim Olin opted not to run for reelection in 1992. In the 1992 November general election, Goodlatte defeated Democratic candidate Stephen Musselwhite, who had defeated Olin's preferred choice at the district Democratic convention, with 60% of the vote. Goodlatte has been reelected ten times, often running unopposed. His most substantive Democratic opposition was in 1996, when he faced Jeff Grey, and again in 1998, when Roanoke mayor David Bowers challenged him. In an overwhelmingly conservative district, Goodlatte turned back these challenges, with 67% and 69% of the vote, respectively. In 2008, he was challenged by Democratic candidate Sam Rasoul of Roanoke. Goodlatte garnered 62% of the vote. In 2010, Goodlatte was challenged by Independent Jeffrey Vanke and Libertarian Stuart Bain. Goodlatte won with 76.26% of the vote.[8]

In 2009, Goodlatte was appointed to serve as the co-lead impeachment manager (prosecutor) alongside Adam Schiff for the impeachment trial of Judge Samuel B. Kent. The following year, Goodlatte was appointed and served as a House co-lead impeachment manager in the impeachment trial of Thomas Porteous, again alongside Schiff.[9]

2012 election[edit]

In 2011, Republican Karen Kwiatkowski of Mount Jackson, Virginia, announced that she would challenge Goodlatte in the Republican primary set for June 12, 2012. This was Bob Goodlatte's first contested Republican primary. Kwiatkowski earned 34% of the Republican primary vote, with Goodlatte winning 66%.[10] He faced Democratic nominee Andy Schmookler in the general election and defeated him with 66% of the vote.[11]

Policy views[edit]

The American Conservative Union gave him a 94% evaluation.

Office of Congressional Ethics[edit]

During a secret meeting on the night before the start of the 115th Congress, Goodlatte led an attempt by House Republicans to reduce the reach of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. The Office was created in 2008 after numerous infractions involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, resulting in the imprisonment of House member Bob Ney.[12] The proposed amendment to House Rules, spearheaded by Goodlatte, gave the House Ethics Committee - made up of partisan elected officials - oversight of what would be the renamed Office and power to stop inquiries that had the potential to lead to criminal charges. It would have also blocked the Office's staff from speaking with reporters and other news media members.[13]

The amendment passed during the secret meeting, but its fortunes were reversed once news of the measure leaked out. The proposed changes immediately drew strong criticism from prominent figures on both sides of the aisle, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, President-elect Donald Trump, and even Abramoff himself.[2][14] Additionally, social media catalyzed a swift reaction from constituents, with Google reporting that searches for "Who is my representative" surged in the hours following the public unveiling of the mooted changes to the Office.[15] Representatives received thousands of calls demanding they cease their support for the amendment.[16] In less than 24 hours, Goodlatte and his fellow Republicans scrapped the proposal.[17]


One of Goodlatte's legislative initiatives was his constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. Goodlatte wrote and put forward both the "clean" Balanced Budget Amendment which had a higher chance of actually passing the House and the Senate as well as a version that makes it harder to increase taxes by requiring a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to raise taxes.[18][19] However, Representatives Paul Ryan, Justin Amash, David Dreier and Louie Gohmert voted against the "clean" amendment because it could have allowed taxes to be raised on Americans. Ryan released a statement after the vote, saying: "I'm concerned that this version will lead to a much bigger government fueled by more taxes. Spending is the problem, yet this version of the Balanced Budget Amendment makes it more likely taxes will be raised, government will grow, and economic freedom will be diminished. Without a limit on government spending, I cannot support this Amendment."[20]

National security[edit]

Official Portrait of Bob Goodlatte, Painted by Scott Wallace Johnston

Goodlatte supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to impose a temporary ban on entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. He stated that "The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. Today, President Trump has begun to fulfill this responsibility by taking a number of critical steps within his authority to strengthen national security and the integrity of our nation's immigration system."[21]


Goodlatte is the co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Internet Caucus, Chairman of the House Republican High-Technology Working Group, and Co-Chairman of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus.

In 1997 he sponsored the No Electronic Theft Act which criminalized several kinds of non-commercial copyright infringement, in response to the decision for the court case United States v. LaMacchia (1994).

Goodlatte is a staunch advocate of a federal prohibition of online gambling. In 2006, he sponsored H.R. 4777, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.[22] In September 2006, working with then Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, Goodlatte was a major House supporter of the Unlawful Internet gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The Act was passed at midnight the day Congress adjourned before the 2006 elections. Prior to it being added to the bill, the gambling provisions had not been debated by any Congressional committee.[23] The bill was made sure to exclude online gambling. They claimed moral reasons for pushing for a ban on Internet gambling, but critics charge that it was due to campaign contributions from Microsoft and Steam.[24]

Russia probe[edit]

Goodlatte invoked surveillance abuse against Martin Luther King Jr. in the context of alleged surveillance abuses against Trump 2016 campaign advisor Carter Page.[25]

Savanna's Act[edit]

His last act as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee before leaving in December 2018 was to block Savanna's Act, a bill introduced by Heidi Heitkamp and which had passed without opposition in the Senate.[26] The bill, previously known as S.1942, was nicknamed after Fargo, North Dakota resident Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind was brutally murdered in August 2017 as an example of the horrific statistics regarding abuse and homicide of Native American women.[27]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Electoral history[edit]

Virginia's 6th congressional district: Results 1992–2016[35]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct Republican Primary Votes Pct Independent Votes Pct Minor Party Party Votes Pct
1992 Stephen A. Musselwhite 84,618 40% Bob Goodlatte 127,309 60% ** (no candidate) *
1994 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 126,455 100% (no candidate) *
1996 Jeffrey W. Grey 61,485 31% Bob Goodlatte 133,576 67% (no candidate) Jay P. Rutledge 4,229 2% *
1998 David A. Bowers 39,487 31% Bob Goodlatte 89,177 69% (no candidate) *
2000 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 153,338 99% (no candidate) Write-ins 1,145 1%
2002 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 105,530 97% (no candidate) Write-ins 3,202 3%
2004 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 206,560 97% (no candidate) Write-ins 7,088 3%
2006 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 153,187 75% (no candidate) Barbara Jean Pryor 25,129 12% Andre Peery Independent 24,731 12% *
2008 Sam Rasoul 114,367 37% Bob Goodlatte 192,350 62% (no candidate) Janice Lee Allen 5,413 2% *
2010 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 126,710 76% (no candidate) Jeffrey Vanke 21,648 13% Stuart Bain Libertarian 15,309 9% *
2012 Andy Schmookler 109,929 34% Bob Goodlatte 209,701 66% Karen Kwiatkowski 10,991 34% *
2014 (no candidate) Bob Goodlatte 133,898 75% (no candidate) Eliane Hildebrandt 21,447 12% Will Hammer Libertarian 22,161 12% *
2016 Kai Degner 112,170 33% Bob Goodlatte 225,471 66% Harry Griego 5,383 22% Libertarian

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, write-ins received 160 votes. In 1994, write-ins received 189 votes. In 1996, write-ins received 71 votes. In 1998, write-ins received 66 votes. In 2006, write-ins received 948 votes. In 2008, write-ins received 262 votes. In 2010, write-ins relieved 2,709 votes. **In 1992, Bob Goodlatte received the Republican nomination at the Republican District Convention. Prior to 2012, Goodlatte had never faced a primary challenge throughout his 20-years in Congress.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Goodlatte has been married since 1974; he and his wife have two children.[37]


  1. ^ "US Congress: Republicans vote to limit ethics body". BBC News. Reuters. January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 3, 2017. an amendment to House rules by Congressman Bob Goodlatte, would weaken the body's oversight of matters such as conflicts of interests and financial impropriety .... the new body would no longer be able to receive anonymous tip-offs, nor have a spokesperson, and would be under the supervision of the House Ethics Committee. Accusations against lawmakers would not be made public, as they are currently...
  2. ^ a b Lipton, Eric (2017-01-02). "With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  3. ^ Forman, Carmen (November 9, 2017). "After nearly a quarter century in D.C., Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County will not seek re-election". The Roanoke Times. Roanoke, VA. Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  4. ^ Meyer, Theodoric (February 14, 2020). "Goodlatte registers to lobby". POLITICO. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  5. ^ "goodlatte". Archived from the original on 2015-10-19. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  6. ^ "Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte doesn't forget his Springfield roots". masslive. 2013-12-09. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  7. ^ a b "Bob Goodlatte – Virginia 6th District :: About Bob". Archived from the original on 2014-09-18. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  8. ^ "Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives". Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  9. ^ "List of Individuals Impeached by the House of Representatives". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-06. Retrieved 2013-08-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Election Results". Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
  12. ^ Eric Lipton (January 3, 2017). "With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office". The New York Times. Retrieved January 3, 2017. ...Goodlatte announced on Monday that the House Republican Conference had approved a change to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics...
  13. ^ Jacobson, Louis (2017-01-03). "The House GOP's ethics vote: What was that about, anyway?". PolitiFact. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  14. ^ Goldmacher, Shane (2016-01-03). "Jack Abramoff slams GOP over House ethics changes". Politico. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  15. ^ Calfas, Jennifer (2017-01-03). "Google searches for 'who is my representative' spike". The Hill. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  16. ^ Bade, Rachael; Bresnahan, John; Cheney, Kyle (2017-01-03). "Inside the House GOP ethics debacle". Politico. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  17. ^ Lipton, Eric; Flegenheimer, Matt (2017-01-03). "House Republicans, Under Fire, Back Down on Gutting Ethics Office". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  18. ^ Mattie Duppler (2011-11-09). "Conservatives to Congress: Vote NO on a Weak Balanced Budget Amendment". Americans for Tax Reform. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  19. ^ "Sponsor says 'clean' balanced budget amendment has edge for floor vote". TheHill. 2014-06-23. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  20. ^ "Washington Examiner". Archived from the original on 2011-11-20.
  21. ^ Blake, Aaron (29 January 2017). "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
  22. ^ Bob, Goodlatte (22 September 2006). "H.R.4777 - 109th Congress (2005-2006): Internet Gambling Prohibitionp Act". Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  23. ^ Nelson Rose: The Unlawful Internet gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 Analyzed Archived January 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Inside the Goodlatte Conspiracy".
  25. ^ "House Republicans launch multi-pronged attack on Trump's DOJ". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018-06-28.
  26. ^ A Single GOP Congressman Is Blocking A Bill To Help Abused Native Women, Huffington Post article by Jennifer Bendery, 12/17/2018
  27. ^ S.1942 on
  28. ^ "Bob Goodlatte – Virginia 6th District :: Civil Justice Caucus". Archived from the original on 2014-09-18. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  29. ^ a b "Bob Goodlatte – Virginia 6th District :: Family Values". Archived from the original on 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  30. ^ "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  31. ^ "Bob Goodlatte – Virginia 6th District :: Military/National Defense". Archived from the original on 2014-08-05. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  32. ^ "Member List". Republican Study Committee. Archived from the original on 1 January 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  33. ^ "Members". House Baltic Caucus. Archived from the original on 19 June 2022. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  34. ^ "Members". Congressional Constitution Caucus. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  35. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  36. ^ Confirmed through multiple sources, including FEC data, the Republican Party of Virginia and the Virginia State Board of Elections
  37. ^ "About Goodlatte – Family". Archived from the original on 2014-12-05. Retrieved 2014-12-11.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the House Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Collin Peterson
Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the House Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative