Study finds state governments at risk for corruption

by
March 20, 2012

By Associated Press,

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — State governments lack transparency and accountability to citizens and remain at high risk for corruption, according to a new study of all 50 statehouses. The state doing the best? New Jersey.

Not a single state received an A in the State Integrity Investigation ranking, a product of the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity.

“It’s telling that no state received an overall grade of A,” said Caitlin Ginley, a staff writer for the Center for Public Integrity and a project manager on the study. “In every state, there’s room to improve the ethics laws, the level of transparency on government proceedings, the disclosure of information, and — most importantly — the oversight of these laws.

“One of the major findings was that even when ethics laws are passed, they are difficult to enforce and lack meaningful consequences for violators,” Ginley said.

Only five states got rankings of B, led by a surprising recipient: New Jersey. It got a B-plus, with an overall score of 87 out of a possible 100.

Despite — or perhaps because of — recent corruption scandals, New Jersey got the top ranking because of steps it took to combat corruption, including tough ethics and anti-corruption laws it adopted in response.

New Jersey has a colorful tradition of corruption in government, including a congressman taking a bribe from an FBI agent posing as a wealthy Arab sheik, a Jersey shore councilman caught on tape bragging to an undercover officer that he would never get caught because “I could smell a cop a mile away,” and a decade-long string of 150 state and local officials who were either convicted or pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. The cases ranged from Motor Vehicle Commission employees selling fraudulent licenses to politicians peddling their influence for kickbacks.

Cases stemming from the 2009 roundup of 44 people in what was dubbed by the feds as “Operation Bid-Rig” are still working their way through the courts.

But that history of corruption also led to strong reforms designed to prevent it in the future. Among them was a law prohibiting campaign contributions by most firms doing business with the state.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/study-finds-state-governments-at-risk-for-corruption-new-jersey-listed-as-most-transparent/2012/03/18/gIQAhzayKS_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop

 

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