You know you royally messed up when Alaska is on top of any list!
Recently The Center for Public Integrity came out with their 2015 State Integrity Investigation. And the results… well there’s no way around it, the results are horrendous. While going from state-to-state, multiple discrepancies with transparency and accountability can be found on a systematic level. If you want to dive deeper into the report and look at it from an individual state level, you can here. Below are some of the general takeaways we came up with after our read through.
Basically Everyone Failed…
Much like the terrible movie Alien vs Predator, we’re all losers here. Out of the 50 states:
- On average, the majority of states scored ‘D-‘s (16 states in all).
11 of the states outright failed with an ‘F’ grade.
Only 3 states “passed” (Alaska, California, and Connecticut).
… And If You’re One of the Three States That Didn’t Fail, Don’t Celebrate It Too Hard
Considering all of you got ‘C’s or lower – Alaska got a ‘C’, while California and Connecticut almost failed with ‘C-‘s – the above clip basically sums up your predicament.
The Report Shines a Light on How Legislative Loopholes Compromise Integrity in the State Level
One of the first examples that The Center for Public Integrity uses in their report is of lobbyists buying meals for politicians in high eating establishments in Little Rock, Arkansas (the state’s capitol). In 2014 Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure that barred state officials to accept lobbyists’ gifts, yet “wining and dining” state officials continued to be a big part of political life. How could they get away with this?
The Center for Public Integrity showcased again and again, that even though laws were in placed to set certain standards for fairness and accountability within government systems, state legislatures were finding – and at times creating – loopholes so they could bypass portions of the law. In the case of the Arkansas measure, in the ballot initiative “food and drink” weren’t prohibited from the measure if lobbyists invited “a specific governmental body.” So what lobbyists would do is invite an entire legislative committee, thus going around the ballot measure.
Out of the 13 Measures Used in the Study, The Worst was “Public Access to Information”
In this study, 13 measures were used to give each state a grade for “integrity.” Of those 13 measures, the one that most states continuously failed was “Public Access to Information.” In all, 44 states failed in this measure.
While most states have open record and public meeting laws – as said earlier – loopholes exist to undercut the spirt of the law, more times than not. A major factor in this comes from the fact that many states dissuade individuals from following up on rejected requests from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) forms through excessive fees upon each request and/or having no real enforcement to see if the rejected requests were legitimate or not, hence making individuals go through courts to challenge them (which cost both time and money).
The Worst Part, None of This Was All That Surprising
Based on recent polling, more Americans are trusting state governments to create new policies since many have become disenchanted with the current Congressional gridlock in Washington. The sad part is, to many who follow local politics, state governments have traditionally been left to their own devices.
Many in the past have called state governments “test tubes for democracy”, which at times are absolutely true, but in general with local watchdog groups getting little-to-no funding to keep states honest and the national media largely ignoring legislative minutia in state politics, these governmental institutions are left alone with very little oversight.
The Center for Public Integrity’s findings are more predictable than many would like to admit.
(Photo Credits: Center for Public Integrity, YouTube, Google Images)