WASHINGTON D.C. – Alaska ranks first as the most ethical state, according to a new 2015 State Integrity Investigation led by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. California and Connecticut complete the top 3. However, the grades among all 50 states are disturbing, since only these three scored higher than D+.

Although Alaska reached the highest grade, it was only a C, meaning that there is an increased corruption in the US at almost every level. In fact, New Jersey passed from 1st to 19th in the recent raking, demonstrating that there is still a lot of work to do nationwide. Delaware (48th), Wyoming (49th) and Michigan (50th) scored the worst grades.

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The study explains that the grades were settled by 245 questions “that ask about key indicators of transparency and accountability, looking not only at what the laws say, but also how well they’re enforced or implemented”. These key indicators are split up into 13 categories such as public access to information, electoral oversight, state budget processes, judicial accountability and political financing. Highly qualified journalists carried out in-depth research regarding current laws as well as their implementation in each state. As a whole, the project’s results facilitate the comprehension of transparency, accountability and ethics in state government.  

Many states scored much lower compared to the first investigation that was carried on in 2012. The reason might be related to the fact that new laws have been emerging and that kind of changes take time to assimilate. Lead author Nicholas Kusnetz told the Christian Science Monitor that “Most of these measures are unique to these states. They are creating these rules and laws themselves, so it is largely up to them how on how to handle these issues.” He commented that these states should imitate one another’s efficient procedures. For example, after having incorporated some of New Jersey’s ethic laws, Connecticut and Rhode Island have shown advances in their public accountability, as they were ranked 3rd and 5th in the recent study.

The worst grades are visible in terms of handling public access to information, where all but 6 states failed. In 2013 one New Mexico representative, who supported a legislative decision of keeping lawmaker’s e-mails exempt from open records laws, said that he believed it was up to him to decide whether a third-party could have his record or not.

In spite of the countless worrying results, the research also shows improvement in some categories. Seven states scored in the 90s in the category of “State Budget Processes” and only three had failing grades in Internal Auditing.

Source: Center for Public Integrity