Monday, July 17, 2006

Expectations of Elected Officials

Haven't posted in a while. I wanted to post at least 3 times per week. Hmm...

On an email list I read, there was a post about Senator Hatch (Utah) taking donations from companies that sell alcohol, tobacco, and do gambling. The poster was saying that Senator Hatch, being LDS, shouldn't take donations from such groups, since the use of their products and services are prohibited by his religion.

That leads me to this posts topic:

When someone is elected, what can / should be expected based on various group membership? (Political party, religious affiliation, etc.)

Political party should, in my opinion, be the biggest contributor to expected behavior / votes. I expect most people to agree with me there.

But the next one, Religious affiliation, is a biggie. Tobacco and alcohol consumption are legal in Utah (with restrictions). Gambling isn't (Utah is one of two states that doesn't even have a lottery). I can see complaints about an elected official receiving money from organizations that sell products or provide services that are illegal in the area that they represent. So, I would expect some sort of chastisement for any elected official in Utah for receiving money from companies that do gambling. Now, if it were an organization that were trying to get legislation passed to allow a lottery, that would be different.

But what about alcohol and tobacco? Senator Hatch, and all other elected officials for that matter, took an oath to represent the people of Utah. Not all people in Utah are LDS. Even if it were, we are a Representative Democracy, not any sort of Theocracy (although there is some argument about us being an Oligarchy, but that is another post). The oath was to follow the law. Since tobacco and alcohol are legal in Utah, there should be no problem with him accepting the money.

But, I would expect that an upstanding member of the LDS Church to do what he could to follow the tenets of his church. Accepting the money from organizations that promote things that are proscribed by his church looks wrong to me. It seems that he is breaking some sort of oath or promise or something. I don't want any elected official to propose legislation that promotes the tenets of their religion just to further their religion, but I wouldn't expect them to be some sort of booster for organizations that go against their religion. This is what it looks like Senator Hatch is doing.

It comes down to this (paraphrased from a plaque in my In-Laws house): If you believe what you believe, why do you do what you do?

So, is there anything legally wrong with Senator Hatch accepting the money? No. But, because of his religious beliefs, I would expect him to reject the donation.

It's not enough to want to replace him as a Senator, but, along with other issues I have with him...

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