Native Village
Youth and Education news

April 1, 2012
America's Most Corrupt States
Condensed by Native Village
1. Georgia  (49%)
Overall grade: F 
Public access to information: F
Legislative accountability: F
Political  financing: F
Ethics enforcement agencies:  F
Georgia State Map

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.

2. South Dakota  (50%)
Overall grade: F
Public access to information: D+
Legislative accountability: F
Political  financing: F
Ethics enforcement agencies:  F
South Dakota State Map

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

3. Wyoming  (52%)
Overall grade: F 
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.

4. Virginia  (55%)
Overall grade: F 
Public access to information: F
Legislative accountability: F
Political  financing: F
Ethics enforcement agencies:  F
Virginia State Map

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.

5. Maine (56%)
Overall grade: F 
Public access to information: F
Legislative accountability: F
Political  financing: D+
Ethics enforcement agencies:  F
Maine State Map

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.

6. South Carolina (57%)
 Overall grade:
 Public access to information: F
 Legislative accountability: F
Political financing: D-
Ethics enforcement agencies:  F
South Carolina State Map

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

7. North Dakota (58%)
Overall grade: F 
Public access to information: C
Legislative accountability: F
Political  financing: F
Ethics enforcement agencies F
North Dakota State Map

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.


8. Michigan  (58%)
Overall grade:
ublic access to information: D
egislative accountability: F
Political financing:
Ethics enforcement agencies: 
Michigan State Map

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.

Also Read:  America's Least Corrupt States

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