Americans are growing less trusting of their political institutions. Per a Gallup poll, less than 40% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the presidency, which has been the case since 2010. More than 80% of Americans have had “some,” “very little,” or “no” confidence in Congress for well over a decade.
This distrust in American politics likely stems, at least in part, from the litany of scandals that have ensnared civil servants at every level. While misconduct at the national level, like Watergate or President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair, tend to get more attention, corruption has been found at the state level in every part of the country.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed local news reports, media coverage, and other historical documents to find the worst corruption scandal in the history of each state.
While these scandals are each unique, they all have some common DNA — someone with some amount of power from the public position they hold using that power to benefit themselves or their family. Regardless of location or political affiliation, it seems that all types of American officials are susceptible to malfeasance.
In some instances, these scandals are simple cases of politicians accepting bribes in exchange for promoting favorable legislation for a business or an individual. In others, the scandals are of officials taking funds meant to help the community and spending it lavishly on themselves, buying houses, cars, and vacations. Still others are more complex ordeals, involving blackmail, false accusations, extramarital affairs, and sometimes even murder.
Unethical conduct is nothing new with some instances of wrongdoing on this list coming to light over a century ago. And despite increased regulation such conduct persists with some cases of misconduct being actively prosecuted as of June 2021.
Corruption does not exist in a vacuum, and rampant misconduct can indicate a lack of institutional control. This can come from scant laws on how officials should behave, lax enforcement, or even a pervasive culture of unethical dealings. These are America’s best and worst run states.