Most states at severe risk for corruption
This week the State Integrity Investigation released its final findings and scores. The investigation, headed by groups Global Integrity, Center for Public Integrity, and Public Radio International, looked into 330 different “corruption risk indicators” divided into 14 categories and used them to put together a final corruption risk grade for each state in the US. The categories deal with transparency, public access to information, ethics, judicial accountability, redistricting, and other areas.
Grades reflect the structures in place to prevent corruption, and the degree of access that the public has to these structures and mechanisms. Much of the grade, too, has to do with the “teeth” of the law, and what happens on the enforcement end. The end results and grades do not bode well for residents, as states overall have a long way to go in rooting out corruption.
Only four states nationwide received a grade of B or higher, while no states scored an A, and 8 states received F’s. More than half of the states, 26, received grades of D or F from the investigation. See each state’s final grades here.
What does this mean for democracy? It means that, by and large, states have not been doing a good job of presenting clear and open information for the public. Additionally, it means that the business of the people has been taking place largely behind closed doors, leaving considerable space for back-room deals and actions taken by officials that conflict with the public interest. Other reports have shown the areas in which corruption occurs the most (University of Illinois-Chicago Anti-Corruption Report, PDF), but even when laws and mechanisms are in place, corruption can and does happen. What matters more sometimes is how quickly offenders get caught, and how they are punished for their actions.
How can we push our states to enact tougher laws and, hopefully, improve their score for the next study? On each state’s page users can submit the scores to their representatives. Together, we can push our legislators to enact more stringent laws and structures to help root out corruption. It will require a large movement of the people because up until now, at least according to this thorough investigation, states have not been moving that much on their own.