The State Integrity Investigation, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity, has revealed recent corruption trends across the United States.
The study analyzed 50 state governments, and assigned grades on a scale of 1 to 100, with scores of 59 or below being considered as fail grades.
Researchers took into account 13 essential aspects such as campaign financing, public access to information, internal auditing, ethics enforcement, decision-making regarding state budgets etc. 245 questions were included in the questionnaire, with a view to determine levels of accountability and transparency at state level.
Initially, journalists based in various locations across America analyzed legislative measures and guidelines implemented in an effort to tackle corruption, and discovered to what extent each state was marred by conflicts of interest, secrecy and abuse power.
Afterwards, their findings were verified by independent experts, as well as by editors at the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.
It was determined that Alaska is the least corrupt state, although it was only granted a C grade, after having scored 76 points. Also ranked as among the least riddled with unethical behavior were Connecticut and California, which were given a C minus.
At the opposite side of the spectrum was Michigan, which only received a 50.5 score, being declared the worst in terms of implementing anti-corruption policy.
Wyoming, Delaware, South Dakota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maine, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma were also awarded grade F, having thus failed the integrity assessment. At the middle of the ranking, 36 states barely managed to pass, after having scored a D.
Overall, the worst performance was measured when it came to public access to information, where 44 states received fail scores, while better grades were given for internal auditing and state budget processes.
By and large, results are obviously disastrous, and it appears that state governments have fared much worse now than in 2012, when the first edition of this report was released.
Back then, New Jersey was crowned the least corrupt, after receiving a relatively commendable score, corresponding to a B+. However, in recent years the Garden State seems to have experienced a decline in ethical behavior shown by the state government, now being ranked at 19th place, with a D grade.
Study authors point out that an accurate comparison between the findings collected following the two studies is difficult to achieve, given the fact that this newest research has been conducted more rigorously, and included a wider array of questions.
According to Paula A. Franzese, expert in government ethics at Seton Hall University School of Law, while results might be considered disappointing, they aren’t necessarily surprising, since a large number of states face financial woes, so little focus is placed on enforcing ethics standards.
Ever since the initial report was published, around 12 states have had major political leaders who were prosecuted, found guilty or forced to resign due to being involved in malfeasance in office, and other corruption scandals.
The most numerous cases of this kind were reported in New York, where 14 legislators were removed high-ranking positions, following abuse of power and similar instances of unethical behavior.
This excludes Dean Skelos, former majority leader of the New York State Senate, who will be facing trial on federal corruption charges, and Sheldon Silver, former New York State Assembly Speaker, who is now being prosecuted for fraud, money laundering and extortion.
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