By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter
While few may pay attention to what goes on in Nebraska’s legislature, fairly big news was announced just the other week in the Omaha World-Herald. State senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha was picked up for a DUI. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit, and he accepted full responsibility for what he had done.
A year ago, this story wouldn’t have bothered me a whole lot. I mean, politicians behaving badly is a nightly reality show we call the news. However, this incident reminded me of that little saying: “What goes around, comes around.”
Let me tell you the story.
About a month ago in my “Government and Politics of Nebraska” class, my classmates and I were instructed to choose a state senator, contact them for an interview, and write up a little report. From there, our continuing project was to follow their legislation, committee, and public actions throughout the session. There are 30-some students in the class, and 49 state senators, and I chose Senator Ernie Chambers first.
I called Chambers’ office an unholy number of times, and his secretary was very nice and patient dealing with me. In fact, she encouraged my calling every 15 minutes, and told me eventually he would answer when he got out of committee. Eventually, Chambers did answer and told me that he would not do student interviews anymore. I was disappointed because he has more experience than anyone else in the unicameral, but I also wasn’t terribly surprised because both his secretary and my instructor told me it was very possible he wouldn’t want to talk.
Anyhow, one of my second choices was Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh. Thankfully, he was one of the handful left who had not been chosen. I received permission from my instructor to switch choices and began calling Lautenbaugh’s office. I spoke with a legislative aide a few times, was told to leave my contact info, and did so every time. I also sent emails accompanying my calls each day in order to make sure there was no possible way I could be overlooked. Well, I was overlooked and ignored, and the project deadline was a day away, so I simply wrote up what I had learned about both men through independent research, and received full credit.
Happy ending to an annoying tale, right? Wrong.
I have a very keen interest in entering politics, particularly here in my home state of Nebraska. While this is the most politically active I’ve ever been, I did have enough prior experience to know that it would take time and effort to get to interview these politicians. However, I had this strange, idealistic notion that they would want to talk a political science student heavily interested in state politics.
In fact, in the introductory level political science courses, we learned how important constituency and media were to politicians seeking re-election. I am not a voting member of either Chambers’ or Lautenbaugh’s districts, but I am from Omaha, and that should be close enough association to handle such interview requests more appropriately. I give credit to Chambers for personally turning me down over the phone, but other classmates shared the experience I had with Lautenbaugh: being ignored. So, I’ve come to a few conclusions about what happened here. The first is that some of our state representatives just don’t care what students have to say (especially those political science students with no future!). The second is that they’re just mean-spirited people, who relish the thought they might have cost me my 40 points. The third is that they’re just stupid and don’t know how to get re-elected. In light of the Omaha World-Herald news, there is a fourth possibility, and that is that maybe, just maybe, they were just drunk.
What goes around, comes around Sen. Lautenbaugh. While you may have ignored me, this state now has plenty to discuss about you.