As the Center explains, “The State Integrity Index researched 330 “Integrity Indicators” across 14 categories of state government: public access to information, political financing, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, pension fund management, ethics enforcement, insurance commissions, and redistricting.”
With such dismal findings, the Center is clearly advancing its mission “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first.” Good luck with that.
Yet if we know anything, it’s that the powerful have neither shame nor “any sense of decency.” A recent ‘for instance’ stands out. It’s the case of disgraced, impeached former Illinois governor and lawyer Rod Blagojevich who last week, before entering ‘Club Fed’ in Colorado, was signing autographs, posing for pictures and chowing down at “Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers” for his final taste of freedom.
“D” Sisters: Arizona and Nevada
But despite the Center’s good intentions, there’s much to criticize, especially that so few states garnered “F” grades. Like what’s up with all those “D’s”? And how did Blago’s home state Illinois rank 10th out of 50 states? How in the world does politically corrupt Illinois with its long history of corrupt politicians score a 74 and earn a “C” grade?
Unsurprisingly, my former home state, Nevada, almost made the dubious ‘cut’ to earn an “F” with the 8 cellar dwellers bringing up the rear. Earlier this year, poor Nevada also failed to make ‘the cut’ missing the Top Ten when another poll dubiously distinguished poor Nevada as 11th among “America’s Most Miserable States.” But on the corruption scale, by the skin of its teeth, Nevada earned a “D-” to place 42nd among 50 states.
My current home state, Arizona, earned a hardly praiseworthy “D+.” But with so many other states garnering “D” grades, it was 15 spots better than Nevada and 27th out of 50. A total of 18 states got “D” grades. 19 states earned “C” grades. Compare your state’s report card here.
Arizona buoyed its embarrassing “D” thanks, in part, to the Center’s bias for judicial merit selection and retention. Otherwise, it richly deserved its “D,” and more properly, should have been awarded an “F.” Indeed, I enthusiastically agree with “Requiem for Arizona,” a recent “Letter to the Editor” in “High Country News,” where reader John Woodruff wrote, “It is no secret that Arizona’s politicians are narrow-minded and incompetent. But when the highest aspirations of most people in the state are to live in an undemanding climate, engage in ersatz amusements and pay no taxes, enlightened people are not going to flock to state government. As Arizona marks its centennial, the most fitting gesture would be to drape the Capitol in black crepe. That is, of course, if it’s all right with the new landlord.” (Facing its worst financial crisis since the last one, in 2009, the governor approved a plan to sell the state Capitol buildings.)
As for Nevada, its parochial “good ole’ boy” political culture is reason enough to taint it with corruption, but it was also downgraded for not enjoying the supposed Utopian benefits of merit selection and judicial selection. It was given a “D+” for “Judicial Accountability.” As a contested open judicial election state, Nevada suffers from legal establishment and news media criticism of purported endemic conflicts of interest and a supposed stacked judicial deck.
According to “The Story Behind the Score,” speaking of the state’s judiciary, it explained that Nevada voters “resisted some reforms. In November 2010, for instance, voters killed measures that would have switched Nevada judges from an elective to appointive system; instituted a formal system to measure judges’ performance; and added an intermediate appeals level.”
Conversely, merit selection/judicial retention Arizona received a “B-” for the same category, which partly explains its overall gentleman’s “D+” versus Nevada’s “D-.” But at least, residents of both states can draw comfort from a poll last year where Nevada and Arizona beat out the field as, respectively, No. 1 and No. 2 among “America’s Dumbest States.”