Saturday, June 23, 2012

Most Corrupt States in America

The Center for Public Integrity has released the scores of a their report which investigated the risk of corruption and lack of accountability in our 50 states.  The report shows that almost every state in the nation received at least one terrible grade that should give each of us pause for concern.

From Fox Business:


The Center for Public Integrity’s report examined issues concerning accountability and ethics in each state government. States were graded on 330 separate metrics, which were grouped into 14 major categories. Overall grades are based on the average grades in the major categories, which included lobbying disclosure, political financing, internal auditing, ethics enforcement agencies and redistricting.

Apparently the difference between those states which scored an F and those that scored a B- or better, those that have integrity and those that don't, is whether the state had regular reports on the government from watchdog groups, citizens, and public employees. Randy Barrett said the main problem is the lack of public access to information.  How is there supposed to be transparency and accountability if the states refuse to make information public so citizens have access to that information?

For some reason those states that have been dealing with corruption for a long period of time, such as California and New Jersey, received high marks because they have measures in place to stop the corruption since they have dealt with corruption in the past.


According to Barrett, states with stagnant political environments often encourage corruption. Governments with high levels of corruption tend to have a political party — either the Democrats or Republicans — in power for a long time. The states that have had a “machine” in place for a long time often tend to be the most corrupt. Machines tend to want to protect themselves.


The states with the worst records on corruption and lack of accountability are Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia.

8. Michigan> Overall grade: F (58%)
> Public access to information: D
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
 
Michigan received a grade of F in 10 of the 14 categories measured, including accountability in all three branches of government as well as in redistricting, lobbying and political financing. Michigan is one of just three states that still lacks financial disclosure rules for lawmakers and governors. According to Chris Andrews, author of the State Integrity Investigation report on Michigan, the state does not fall prey to much of the widespread corruption that has been seen in Detroit. The report’s findings indicate, however, that the state has no system in place to monitor state lobbying, which is among the most corrupt in the country. This, according to Andrews, “has allowed wealthy individuals and powerful PACs to funnel huge amounts of money into campaigns.” The state also has a “gift loophole” for lobbyists, which allows gifts from interested parties to elected officials like sports tickets or meals. 
7. North Dakota> Overall grade: F (58%)
> Public access to information: C
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
 
North Dakota got an F in eight of the 14 categories, including redistricting, ethics enforcement agencies, lobbying disclosure and political financing. According to the report, these problems with accountability can lead to conflicts of interest. For example, there are no laws in place preventing civil servants from entering any part of the private sector after leaving office. The state has had a Republican governor in place since Ed Shafer took office in December, 1992. With Republicans holding 75% of legislature seats and philosophically opposing more regulation, as State Integrity Investigation reporter Terry Finneman explains, they tend to “protect the machine.” Last year, they overwhelmingly voted against a bill to create an ethics commission.


6. South Carolina> Overall grade: F (57%)
> Public access to information: F
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: D-
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
 
South Carolina received nine failing grades in areas including executive, judicial and legislative accountability. State Integrity Investigation notes that the budget of South Carolina’s State Ethics Commission has been cut a total of six times in the past three years. In September 2010, all regulations on limiting contributions to political parties were eliminated. Additionally, many contributors to individual candidates abuse loopholes to avoid limitations on donations. There is also an antagonistic relationship between office-holding politicians and the press. Specifically, the report says, Governor Nikki Haley’s administration has used a policy of deleting important emails. 
5. Maine> Overall grade: F (56%)
> Public access to information: F
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: D+
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
Maine received F grades in nine of the 14 measured categories, including legislative accountability, lobbying disclosure and public access to information. The State Integrity Investigation identifies the existence of possible conflicts of interest and corruption. According to the report, there is no law in place, for example, to force Democratic State Senator Jim Brannigan to disclose that the organization that he was a director of received $98 million in Maine government contracts. On February 1, Republican State Representative David Burns was arrested for violating campaign finance laws such as falsifying records and misusing funds.
 
4. Virginia> Overall grade: F (55%)
> Public access to information: F
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
 
Among Virginia’s ethical failings are poor government oversight, weak consumer protections and poor separation between politicians and big business. Overall, it receives nine Fs. One of the state’s greatest offenses is its exemption of its State Corporation Commission — a regulatory agency that is responsible for overseeing all businesses, utilities, financial institutions and railroads in the state — from its Freedom of Information Act. While Virginia has a General Assembly Conflict of Interests Act, the law has proven incredibly inefficient. Only one legislator has ever been prosecuted for violating it — 26 years ago. The state is also weak on enforcing disclosure laws. In 2004, it was discovered that former Democratic Governor L. Douglas Wilder failed to file disclosure reports for his gubernatorial election campaign. Worst still, approximately $169,000 from his campaign account was unaccounted for. Consequently, L. Douglas Wilder, Jr., the former governor’s son and one-time campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to two election law misdemeanors in 2007, resulting in a $1,000 fine and a suspended one-year sentence.

3. Wyoming> Overall grade: F (52%)
> Public access to information: F
> Legislative accountability: D-
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
 
The state of Wyoming received a grade of F in nine of the 14 categories measured by the State Integrity Investigation. The state’s mechanism for self-governance is extremely poor. According to the report, there is no hotline, website or other method for state employees to report corruption. The state also has had the same political machine in place for some time. Wyoming’s two U.S. senators both have been Republicans since 1977. In 2006, the state legislature, which is primarily Republican, overrode a veto from the governor and ruled themselves exempt from open records laws. This means bills in draft can be kept secret, as can all communications with staff, until a bill is proposed. 
2. South Dakota> Overall grade: (50%)
> Public access to information: D+
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
South Dakota, which has the second-highest corruption risk score, has nine failing grades out of 14 categories, and three Ds. The state, which has among the lowest population density in the country, does not have “comprehensive state ethics laws,” an ethics commission or satisfactory transparency laws, as Denise Ross writes for the State Integrity Investigation. The state does little to require public officials, other than judges, to disclose their income and assets. State law features a loophole that makes it possible for individuals to make unlimited political donations. The state has made major improvements in its integrity by making many state records available online in recent years.
 
1. Georgia> Overall grade: F (49%)
> Public access to information: F
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F
Georgia has the worst levels of corruption risk and lack of accountability of any state in the country. The state scored a D or worse in 12 of the 14 categories. The state’s biggest problem is the absence of a strong ethics enforcement agency. Republican governor Sonny Perdue managed to get an ethics bill through the legislature, but by the time it passed, his proposals to ban gifts to state workers and clearly define appropriate campaign spending had been stripped out. According to State Integrity reporter Jim Walls, while Georgia has provisions to prevent certain kinds of corruption in campaign finance and lobbying, the state is full of unaddressed loopholes and lax enforcement. “About 2,000 Georgia officials, including one in five sitting legislators, have failed to pay penalties for filing their disclosures late, or not at all.”

Whether Republican or Democrat the "machine" is partial to cronyism and this is bad for the cause of liberty.  The crony "machine" needs to be disbanded and made into smaller entities or replaced with people who will represent the citizens and put what is best for the state and it's citizens above their own interests.  For integrity to occur we must get rid of the cronyism, at least as much as possible.  

3 comments:

Leticia said...

I am shocked by what I just read. It's even a bit alarming.

I believe these results can be changed but it will take a lot of time and some very strong political figures to start making things right.

On a side note, I believe those of us with young children should be molding them into responsible, ethical and respectable adults.

I see too many parents allowing their children to rule the household by throwing fits until they get their way. And the parents give in every single time. That has got to stop. It should be the parents running the house NOT the kids.

Discipline starts at home.

Right Wing Theocrat said...

Makes you really wonder. One would have thought there isn't as much corruption in the 1st world, but apparently not.

The Conservative Lady said...

Probably a lot of it is due to the fact that the electorate is apathetic. The keep voting the same corrupt politicians into office over and over again.