Virginia gets big fat ‘F’ on transparency report
State governments are largely doing a poor job delivering transparency and accountability to their citizenry. Meanwhile, statehouses remain ripe for corruption and self-dealing. This is the discouraging picture that emerges from the State Integrity Investigation, a first-of-its-kind, data-driven assessment of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states.
In the ranking, not a single state received an A from the months-long probe, which is a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity.
– Only five states got a B grade
– 19 states received a C
– 18 got D’s
E- ight states received failing grades of 59 or below from the project
The F’s went to North Dakota, Michigan, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota and Georgia.
Unlike previous government rankings, the State Integrity Investigation does not rely on a simple tally of scandals. Rather, it measures the strength of laws and practices that encourage openness and deter corruption. The State Integrity Index measures the risk of corruption. States with well-known scandals often have the tough laws and enforcement that bring those to light. “Quiet” states may be at higher risk, with few means to surface corrupt practices.
Reporters in each state researched 330 “Corruption Risk Indicators” across 14 categories of government: access to information, campaign finance, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, budgeting, civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, pension fund management, ethics enforcement, insurance commissions, and redistricting.
The top five most transparent and accountable states are:
New Jersey B+(87)
Connecticut B (86)
Washington B- (83)
California B- (81)
Nebraska B- (80)
New Jersey tops the list? Yes. Here’s why: States with histories of corruption tend to have more recent and robust laws in place to deter such behavior. The investigation found that scandals often propel states toward improved transparency and accountability. In the Garden State, lawmakers have acted to pass some of the toughest ethics and anti-corruption laws in the nation.
The methodology was designed by Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization with deep experience measuring and promoting transparency and accountability in more than 100 countries worldwide. Global Integrity also will help spearhead outreach efforts by citizens to use the data to effect positive change in state governments.
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization, oversaw and edited the work of local reporters who were hired based on experience covering their state’s government. Independent reviewers further vetted the state data for accuracy.
Several companion stories were produced by the Center’s partners in the Investigative News Network.
Public Radio International manages the State Integrity Investigation website (
www.stateintegrity.org) and a social media campaign to get the public invested in supporting honest government. On the site and Facebook, people can send their state report cards to public officials, offer solutions and surface problems. PRI is distributing the investigation to its public radio affiliates and ethnic media.
The State Integrity Investigation received major funding from the Omidyar Network and the Rita Allen Foundation, with additional support from the Rockefeller Family Fund.