Detailed Findings & Methodology
American history has been rife with tales of corruption since the nation’s inception. While some scandals were transitory, others, such as Watergate, left indelible scars on the nation’s psyche.
Most of the events tied to corruption involve politicians from every level of government. Some have been brazen, like Montana’s copper mogul William A. Clark, who shamelessly gave envelopes stuffed with cash to voters to literally buy his Senate seat. Other episodes border on the comical, like North Dakota Gov. William Langer, who, after he was charged with corruption by the federal government, barricaded himself in the governor’s mansion.
Some scandals have scuttled the presidential ambitions of former senators such as Gary Hart of Colorado and John Edwards of North Carolina. Other politicians, such as ex-governors John Rowland of Connecticut and Edward DiPrete of Rhode Island, paid the price for their transgressions by serving jail time.
Not all tales of corruption involve high-profile officials. City managers bilked the blue-collar town of Bell, California, out of $5.5 million. Former city manager Robert Rizzo had been drawing a salary of $800,000 in a city of about 40,000 where one-fourth of the residents were living below the poverty line.
Corruption has undermined the confidence in our education system, too. One example is the test-cheating scandal in Georgia, in which dozens of teachers and administrators boosted test scores of students.
Another is the shocking episode involving former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky that led to the demise of the leaders of that institution, including highly regarded head football coach Joe Paterno.
A wide-ranging scandal involving Flint’s tainted water supply showed incompetence at every level of government, from the governor’s office to those tasked with supervising the Michigan city’s water supply.
The corporate world has also been rocked scandal, such as the accounting debacles of the telecom corporation Worldcom, and the energy company Enron. In those cases, many investors lost their life savings.
Some states have reputations for corruption, such as New Jersey, Louisiana, and Maryland. However, corruption has tainted every state, and brought into question the integrity of the institutions Americans are supposed to trust.
24/7 Wall St. examined archival resources, media sources, and websites to determine the worst scandal in every state. We looked at the nature of the scandal and examined its consequences for a particular state as well as if the corruption episode had implications beyond that state’s borders. In many cases, the results of the disclosure of the scandal led to reforms in ethics standards for politicians and lobbyists in several states.