The effect of lawmaker ethics on Alaska

Alaska is in a unique position in Washington, D.C. as those representing the state are unanimously Republican. Alaska’s congressional delegation consists of Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan, both members of the United States Senate, and Rep. Don Young who serves in the United States House of Representatives.

Being fair and remaining ethical is something that seems to get subsided in politics. Whether a figure believes or supports a cause, the way lawmaking is handled determines the way their state, or country, is impacted.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

Now more than ever, it is important for lawmakers to stick to what they may trust, and fight for what they believe is right for what and whom they are representing. For Alaska, it is up to Murkowski, Sullivan and Young to make a difference and protect the state.

Robert Hockema, a political science student at UAA, admits that lawmakers, both local and national, can often determine the future of a state.

“Lawmakers play a vital role in ensuring that the needs of their constituents are represented. Their sole allegiance is to the very people who have entrusted them to a legislative office and to pass or review bills that are in the interests of their communities. It’s important to understand that ethical practices in government keep lawmakers accountable to the people,” Hockema said. “When politicians violate ethics in government – say, wining and dining lawmakers at fancy restaurants in return for bills that give tax breaks to particular industries, or donating money to campaigns in exchange for special treatment – they undermine trust in democratic institutions by signaling to the people that lining their pockets and keeping cushy jobs are more important than the issues their constituents care about. In essence, lawmakers remaining ethical protect the fundamental integrity of democracy.”

Chaz Rivas is the current president of the Political Science Association at UAA and believes that the consistent reelection of Republican lawmakers is no mistake.

“The importance of ethics for lawmakers is that without them, there would be no trust between the people and government. When an official is elected or appointed, there is a level of ethical expectation that is attached to the public service that should be honored during their tenure,” Rivas said.

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Rivas has hopes that with the three Republicans in congress, and the Republican president, some of the roadblocks that the state has faced, may be overcome.

“In many ways, our congressional delegation are a unique kind of Republican compared to some of the others from the lower 48. Republicans from the state have done well in D.C. focusing on issues that Alaskans care about on the national scale,” Rivas said.

Joey Sweet, a political science student, recognizes the importance of ethical lawmakers because of their role model status in society.

“There are two main governmental philosophies when it comes to a representative. First, there’s the idea that a representative should act as a trustee of their constituents, voting as they see fit for the policies they believe would best serve their constituents. The second view is to act as a delegate of their constituents, voting in a way that they believe reflects the view of their constituents on any given issue,” Sweet said. “Every lawmaker switches between each view over the course of their career. Overall, I feel that our delegation acts more as delegates, given that we are a red state with an all-Republican delegation. While I may personally disagree with that political view, I don’t take away anything from our delegation’s execution of their responsibilities to operate government.”

The political system of a state must stem from a strong local government, which roots from reliable political figures. That is why it is important for lawmakers to remain fair and accountable.