Don't you just love it when elected officials see themselves as so much better than the rest of us? The latest example of this is five "lawmakers/breakers" who are too busy to file their income taxes. Republican former Speaker of the House Lance Cargill owned up to the violation by blaming his accountant! It's always impressive when the general blames the troops. When that didn't work, he resigned as speaker.
He's joined by Reps. Don Armes, Ryan McMullen, Jabar Shumate and Sen. Connie Johnson. Using the Cargill defense of delegating blame, Johnson's excuse was that a divorce somehow kept her from filing her taxes "¦ for three years.
We learned that Rep. Dan Sullivan hasn't paid $7,000 in property taxes because of health and personal issues. Funny how all the rest of us with health or personal problems have to adhere to the law. One or more of this group has complained about being criticized for not complying with the law, about how he or she was singled out because of high visibility. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said it best: "The higher up a monkey climbs, the easier it is to see its ass."
Have you ever noticed how people campaigning for office always criticize their opponents as bums, lawbreakers, liberals, tax-raisers " while defining themselves as "Christians," conservatives, tax-cutters?
Candidates always paint themselves as being everyday men and women, raised poor, who want to represent us little people and defend us from big business and unresponsive, wasteful government. Elect them and they'll take on the fat cats. Instead, they become intoxicated by the power that comes with the office.
Have you ever noticed corporate presidents are addressed by their first names, in spite of the fact that they are the most powerful people in companies? Compare that to elected officials, who love being addressed as senator, representative, commissioner. Upon election or even the indication they might be elected, they develop legions of new friends.
Lobbyists and representatives from the business community, education, unions, utilities and law firms shower elected officials and those who could be elected with gifts, invitations to parties, ball games and concerts. Why? To buy influence. Chances are those new friends never bought those same people as much as a cup of coffee before they had any power or titles. It's those titles and a false sense of importance that lead elected officials to see themselves as too important to worry about paying their taxes.
How is it we all have to purchase our tickets to university games and events, but elected officials get them for free? When's the last time a lobbyist invited you out for dinner? Did you receive any free centennial clothing or tickets to a bowl game from a lobbyist? Has a union given you any money to help you do anything?
Elected officials are supposed to be leaders, role models and, most of all, law-abiding citizens. Anyone can make a mistake, and people do file their taxes late. However, if you're an elected official, at least have the courage to take responsibility for your own behavior. Don't blame your divorcing wife or husband, accountant or the fact you're busy. We're all busy " and you're no better than any of us.
Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.