Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How Corrupt is Your State?

What follows is snip-it of a must read article regarding the integrity of the States in America.  For the full story, please go to The Center for Public Integrity.  Here is a sample of what you will find there.  Check out your own state to see how your are doing. 

The State Integrity Investigation is an unprecedented, data-driven analysis of transparency and accountability in all 50 state governments. The Center has partnered with Global Integrity and Public Radio International to assign each state a letter grade — based on 300 government integrity indicators. No state received an A, and eight states failed.
More about the project 

Grading the nation: How accountable is your state?



The tales are sadly familiar to even the most casual observer of state politics.

In Georgia, more than 650 government employees accepted gifts from vendors doing business 
with the state in 2007 and 2008, clearly violating state ethics law. The last time the state issued 
a penalty on a vendor was 1999.

A North Carolina legislator sponsored and voted on a bill to loosen regulations on billboard
construction, even though he co-owned five billboards in the state. When the ethics commission
reviewed the case, it found no conflict; after all, the panel reasoned, the legislation would benefit
all billboard owners in the state — not just the lawmaker who pushed for the bill.

Tennessee established its ethics commission six years ago, but has yet to issue a single ethics penalty. 
It’s almost impossible to know whether the oversight is effectively working, because complaints are
not made available to the public.

A West Virginia governor borrowed a car from his local dealership to take it for a “test drive.” 
He kept the car for four years, during which the dealership won millions in state contracts. 
When representatives of a biotech company took Montanalegislators out to dinner, they neither 
registered as lobbyists nor reported the fact that they picked up the bill. They didn’t have to — the 
law only requires registration upon spending $2,400 during a legislative session. And in Maine, one 
state senator did not disclose $98 million in state contracts that went to an organization for which he 
served as executive director. The lack of disclosure was not an oversight; due to a loophole in state 
law, he was under no obligation to do so.which he served as executive director. The lack of disclosure 
was not an oversight; due to a loophole in state law, he was under no obligation to do so.

The stories go on and on. Open records laws with hundreds of exemptions. Crucial budgeting decisions
 made behind closed doors by a handful of power brokers. “Citizen” lawmakers voting on bills that 
would benefit them directly. Scores of legislators turning into lobbyists seemingly overnight. Disclosure
 laws without much disclosure. Ethics panels that haven’t met in years.

State officials make lofty promises when it comes to ethics in government. They tout the transparency 
of legislative processes, accessibility of records, and the openness of public meetings. But these efforts
often fall short of providing any real transparency or legitimate hope of rooting out corruption.

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