America’s Most Corrupt States

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8. Michigan
> Overall grade: F (58%)
> Public access to information: D
> Legislative accountability: F
> Political financing: F
> Ethics enforcement agencies: F

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.

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

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. Republicans hold 75% of legislature seats and are philosophically opposed to more regulation, according to State Integrity Investigation reporter Teri Finneman. Speaking to 24/7 Wall St. about entrenched political parties and risk of corruption, the center’s spokesperson, Randy Barrett, explained, “machines tend to want to protect themselves.”  Last year, they overwhelmingly voted against a bill to create an ethics commission.

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

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.

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

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.