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States of American Corruption
March 19, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

You'll never guess which State is least corrupt in the USA!
posted by Renoroc (113 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Woot woot, go Jersey!

This does not say much for the rest of the country.
posted by amro at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jersey bought off the Center for Public Integrity, more likely.
posted by Sfving at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2012 [110 favorites]


Virginia got an F, no surprise there.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


So I was eating dinner with the mostly state civil servant side of my family last night and the conversation turned to how staggeringly, nakedly corrupt New Jersey municipal politics were and trading war stories about having to bribe cops and internal affair boards that never did anything, a suspected killing,millions missing from city treasures etc.

And then this site lists it as a B+ for corruption.

What the hell is going on out there?
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


There has to be something wrong with this methodology. Illinois is listed as the 10th best? Yeah, right.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:29 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


...and the Nutmeg State takes the silver! (Glad they waited until Hartford and Waterbury got better to grade us.)
posted by drowsy at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't believe for one second that Rhode Island is only a C.

(Or Massachusetts, for that matter.)
posted by Melismata at 8:32 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


drowsy: I was going to say something about how having a governor sent to jail for corruption probably shouldn't get you a B, but apparently that happened in 2004. Geez.
posted by smackfu at 8:32 AM on March 19, 2012


This is really odd. After dealing with many bureaucracies in California, and twice having people on the other end GO HOME while I was still on hold, I came to Oregon and found that I was treated a lot nicer, and that government, from the Governor to the local mayor, is much more accessible and easy to navigate.

I got another small taste of California when my daughter went down there for college, and it was just the same as it had been.

So then for California to score above Oregon, wel,l that just does not match my personal experiences.
posted by Danf at 8:32 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What the hell is going on out there?

I'm pretty sure that's just par for the course in every state. The reasons states get Fs is cases like Wyoming, where state senators have the right to primae noctis and Virginia, where circuit court justices can be bought off with first-born sons.
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jersey? Aw come on. I didn't have any great hope for New York, but New Jersey is where corrupt politicians learn their trade.
posted by Splunge at 8:34 AM on March 19, 2012


New York 36th? Fuggedaboutit!
posted by ahimsakid at 8:34 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't believe for one second that Rhode Island is only a C.

When a high enough percentage of your population is actually in the Mob, corruption really just becomes public service.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:37 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Haha, Texas got a D+! Take THAT, New Mexico!

Danf - this doesn't really have much to do with accessibility of government, but rather how corruptable public officials are and how easily they can hide it (accountability and transparency). Texas scores slightly better than New Mexico because at least we have a wide-sweeping freedom of information process (although there have been recent attempts to limit FOI requests in the "free as in beer" sense while sticking to the letter of the 'free as in speech' sense). It looks like the reason for Oregon's low score is that they recently loosened their rules for 'gifts' given to public officials.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nice transparent state legislation you have there, be a shame if anything happened to it.
posted by arcticseal at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2012 [26 favorites]


This is an analysis or score card of the legal framework each state has for handling ethical issues. The article notes that states like Illinois that have had a history of ethical issues has lead them to institute stronger laws, thus getting a higher score than North Dakota, which does not have such laws, and traditionally has not had such problems. It doesn't address the "culture" of corruption that NJ or LA have.

Of course, the big oil equals big corruption, so you can be certain the lack of legal rules in North Dakota is setting the stage for all sorts of problems down the road.
posted by zenon at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is the actual source for these numbers. Includes a nice quote from the Senate Majority Leader in New Jersey: "If we’re number one, I feel bad for the rest of the states."
posted by koeselitz at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


New York 36th? Fuggedaboutit!

Really, that's the best we could do? Man, Boss Tweed must be rolling over in his grave.
posted by tommasz at 8:40 AM on March 19, 2012


muddgirl: “Haha, Texas got a D+! Take THAT, New Mexico!”

We only got a D- in New Mexico because most of the corrupt politicians from Texas are on vacation here.
posted by koeselitz at 8:40 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


What the hell is going on out there?

There has to be something wrong with this methodology.

Yeah. From the article:
[T]he State Integrity Investigation takes a different approach by measuring the risks of corruption, as reflected in the strength or weakness of laws, policies, and procedures designed to assure transparency and accountability in state government.
This does not actually seem to mean that they're measuring corruption as such. They're just looking at the laws about transparency and ethics in government. It's like saying that early-modern Europe had an incredibly oppressive censorship regime because there were all sorts of laws to that effect on the books, nevermind the fact that printers basically did whatever the hell they wanted.

So sure, Jersey and Illinois may have some of the best anti-corruption laws on the books. That may be because they need them. And sure, Maryland may not have very good access to its public records. But if the state isn't actually experiencing all that much corruption, this isn't as bad as it might be. And then you've got shenanigans like the Pennsylvania legislature sneaking themselves a pay raise through on a procedural trick in the middle of the night. Legal? Absolutely. Open to the public and transparent? Yep. Corrupt? You better believe it. This sort of dodge wouldn't necessarily show up in this rating, but it cost one supreme court justice and two top senators their jobs in a heartening display of voter displeasure.

I'm tempted to call this useless as presented. It'd be much better to call this a rating of the several states' regulatory frameworks pertaining to corruption and ethics than a rating of actual corruption.
posted by valkyryn at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


(Like our awful governor, Susana la Tejana.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2012


As a life-long Illinoisan, it still baffles me that people honestly our state is more corrupt than anywhere else. Illinois isn't more corrupt, we just make theater from our corruption.
posted by deathpanels at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


valkyryn: “I'm tempted to call this useless as presented. It'd be much better to call this a rating of the several states' regulatory frameworks pertaining to corruption and ethics than a rating of actual corruption.”

Well, the primary problem here is that the main article was link-jacked from another site. I linked to the actual site for the study above; you may want to go here for more "information" on how they tallied the scores. However, it seems like this isn't really based on data so much as an organic assessment of each state's corruption practices. When I try to get more info, they just give me long synopses of various things.
posted by koeselitz at 8:45 AM on March 19, 2012


Georgia represent!   Bring it 51st state!
posted by jeffburdges at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


drowsy: I was going to say something about how having a governor sent to jail for corruption probably shouldn't get you a B, but apparently that happened in 2004. Geez.

2008, and it's 3 of the last 6. Too early to tell on Quinn, really. What's so astonishing is that RB was re-elected.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2012


As a one-time Connecticut resident who was encouraged to add a few extra hours for my summer job with the town, I approve of this grade.
posted by zippy at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


it still baffles me that people honestly our state is more corrupt than anywhere else. Illinois isn't more corrupt

Illinois may not be but Chicago sure as heck is. Most people outside the Midwest aren't really aware that Illinois exists outside Chicago.

Also, three of your last six governors have done time in the big house. That's not helping your image much.
posted by valkyryn at 8:47 AM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think that deathpanels and valkyryn are on the right track. I think there is corruption in each state, and the states that do better to expose it get the higher ranking.

That, and at least we have some sort of positive for good ol Cali's referendum. We can and have run a Governor out on a rail.

Take this from a San Diegan, who's city politics are as dirty as a used diaper.
posted by The Power Nap at 8:49 AM on March 19, 2012


So then for California to score above Oregon, wel,l that just does not match my personal experiences.

That's ineption, not corruption.
posted by zippy at 8:49 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, IL and Chicago are kind of a punching bag... but watching the WGN news the other night (Day 137,347 of Blagoje-Ganza 2012), the thought struck that maybe all the arrests there don't mean that the city or state are especially corrupt... maybe it means the DAs there are unusually effective.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2012


I linked to the actual site for the study above; you may want to go here for more "information" on how they tallied the scores.

Again, they seem to be grading the states legal frameworks rather than their actual practices. So they'll give bad marks to a state with low transparency but a basically fair process but good marks to a state with higher transparency and transparent corruption.

This does not strike me as intuitively correct.
posted by valkyryn at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2012


Apparently they don't grade on a curve.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2012


Come on people, why all the shock? They're grading on a curve.
The problem is that the myth of squeaky-clean American politics is shown to be a lie across the entire nation. Sunlight . . .best disinfectant . . .etc.
posted by Seamus at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, three of your last six governors have done time in the big house. That's not helping your image much.

Seems to me they should get credit for them actually going to jail.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


MaryDellamorte: "Virginia got an F, no surprise there."

To be fair, though, Virginia's prohibition on governors serving consecutive terms has been an overall very good thing for the state. I can't even imagine how (much more) horrible and backwards the state would be if that restriction were lifted.

Occasionally, I entertain fantasies of Arlington/Alexandria seceding from Virginia, and joining up with DC and the non-crazy areas of Fairfax to form a new state... PG County can come too, since they also seem to be a marginalized and abused stepchild of their state's government... These days, Arlington disagrees with virtually everything that Richmond does. I've never seen another area so out of touch with its state's government, or a state government that took such extreme steps to marginalize a specific geographic region, much less the one that produces the bulk of the state's revenues...

Also, it must hard to corrupt New Jersey's state government when the state's had 8 separate governors in 10 years (+2 if you count the shorter two of Richard Codey's three (nonconsecutive) terms; -1 if you don't count John Farmer's 90 minute term in office; another -1 if you don't count John Bennett's 4 day term)

And, yeah, I guess these grades are significantly "curved" so that all 50 didn't come out as failures. I have a very difficult time standing behind any "states rights" activists when every state government I've ever worked with has been hopelessly corrupt or ineffective. For all the federal government's faults, it's a paragon of stability and efficiency compared to any of the states...
posted by schmod at 8:54 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


valkyryn: “Again, they seem to be grading the states legal frameworks rather than their actual practices. So they'll give bad marks to a state with low transparency but a basically fair process but good marks to a state with higher transparency and transparent corruption.”

That does not seem to be the case to me. I'll see if I can compile the criteria they list; they don't make it easy, unfortunately.
posted by koeselitz at 8:55 AM on March 19, 2012


Seems to me they should get credit for them actually going to jail.

Agreed. This is a lot like schools getting punished for catching students that bring weapons in their bags.
posted by jeffch at 8:55 AM on March 19, 2012


The article does not conclude that NJ is the least corrupt state. It concludes that NJ has a form of government that has the smallest RISK for corruption. You could have the smallest RISK but still be corrupt if you are smart enough to beat the system.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:57 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blagoje-Ganza

It's not the nicest neighborhood in Bratislava, but they've got a hell of a nightlife scene.
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Florida, C-.

WE PASSED!!!! LET'S DO SHOTS!!!!
posted by oddman at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Here is the actual source for these numbers.

And a much nicer choropleth map.
posted by zamboni at 9:04 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, though, Virginia's prohibition on governors serving consecutive terms has been an overall very good thing for the state. I can't even imagine how (much more) horrible and backwards the state would be if that restriction were lifted.

I, for one, would not have minded another term under Kaine.

Occasionally, I entertain fantasies of Arlington/Alexandria seceding from Virginia, and joining up with DC and the non-crazy areas of Fairfax to form a new state... PG County can come too, since they also seem to be a marginalized and abused stepchild of their state's government... These days, Arlington disagrees with virtually everything that Richmond does. I've never seen another area so out of touch with its state's government, or a state government that took such extreme steps to marginalize a specific geographic region, much less the one that produces the bulk of the state's revenues...

Too bad DC isn't on this list, since it's seething with corruption. I would campaign so hard for your fantasy state, but I would pretty much require that Ward 8 toss Barry out (and for that matter, Ward 2 gets rid of Evans). I'm not sure who I'd want to be governor of NuDC (Janet Howell, maybe?), but I would dump most of the DC council and the Fairfax Gingrich-types.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:06 AM on March 19, 2012


if this was a curve-based score, wouldn't the highest grade be by definition an A?
posted by mwhybark at 9:07 AM on March 19, 2012


Ironic that Connecticut takes second place, when the unofficial state motto is about residents fleecing rubes.
posted by zippy at 9:08 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The use of a grading system here is frankly a little silly. Yeah, yeah, I know this is how quantizing frameworks like this have always worked, but they're kinda glossing over the fact that any state with a score less than 100% is failing.

From the original data Nevada got 60% of something or other while Michigan got 58% of something or other. For the sake of simplicity, let's say this is really the "Pet owner competancy score". The general methodology they used seems to be to count up the number of pet owners who good of bad things for their pets, assigning scores in various categories. Some scores are binary (0, 100) while others are more granular with 'in between scoring options'*. Never mind that some of these categories might be heinous things like "Have you ever murdered your puppy?" (No = 100, Yes = 0). All these subscores are then averaged, averaged and averaged again to generate a final score. Voila! Nevada has much more loving puppy owners! Nevermind the fact that every single state still has at least one puppy murderer when the only passing grade should be zero puppy murders.

* "In essence, the scoring criteria guide the lead researcher by suggesting, "If you see X on the ground, score this indicator in the following way." For binary yes/no "in law" indicators, scoring criteria are provided for both "yes (100)" and "no (0)" responses. For "in practice" indicators, scoring criteria are defined for each of the 100, 50, and 0 scores with 25 and 75 deliberately left undefined to serve as in between scoring options."... For the purpose of producing a state’s aggregate report card, a simple aggregation method was used. As described above, the reporter assigned original indicator score. Each indicator score was then averaged within its parent subcategory, which produced a subcategory score. The subcategory score was in turn averaged with the other subcategory scores into a parent category score. Category scores were averaged to produce an overall country score.
posted by rh at 9:08 AM on March 19, 2012


What the hell is going on out there?

Please visit Arizona sometime. I recommend against tanning too deeply beforehand.
posted by hermitosis at 9:09 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Edit: ...who do good or bad things...
posted by rh at 9:09 AM on March 19, 2012


Louisiana ranks 15th.

Oh man. That's hilarious. Louisiana make Chicago's corruption scandals look tame.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on March 19, 2012


if this was a curve-based score, wouldn't the highest grade be by definition an A?

Canada -- the 51st state -- takes the 'A'.
posted by mazola at 9:11 AM on March 19, 2012


My original assertion should have read: any state with a score less than 100% in key categories is failing.
posted by rh at 9:13 AM on March 19, 2012


It's also strange that when investigators in Illinois catch a bunch of corrupt politicians, prosecute, and jail them, it is not noted that this exactly what should happen. Instead, the ensuing media circus draws attention to the corruption qua corruption.

Although, I have to say, we have produced some of the greatest moments of political schadenfreude in recent history. (I would hand the credit to Tribune and Sun-Times reporters, but I'm not sure they even do their own investigating anymore – the Trib, at least, has been reduced to a print RSS feed of the AP wire.)

The appel of the circus is undeniable, but I grow tired of explaining to non-Americans that I don't live in a gangster city run by fat cigar-smoking mob bosses who prepend every sentence with "Y'see". While shootings and gangs are alarmingly common, it's not like I'm dodging bullets on the way to work. Man, I ride a bicycle and eat tofu.
posted by deathpanels at 9:14 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, we call her Santa Susannah, because the Albuquerque Urinal kisses her a$$ so much, lol.

This is really off-base. It only measures potential, and not even that correctly. Maybe they should give lower grades to those states that need better corruption laws because of corruption.

Anyway, NM is no picnic where corruption is concerned, but it's nothing compared to a lot of places.
posted by annsunny at 9:14 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


BARTLET
Any good news? Anything we can hang our hat on?

WILL
Their attorney general reported that their narcotics people embezzled
two million dollars of their anti-drug money.

BARTLET
That's good news?

WILL
Usually, they don't report it.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:15 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another rigged bid in New Jersey.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2012


The problem is that the myth of squeaky-clean American politics is shown to be a lie across the entire nation. Sunlight . . .best disinfectant . . .etc.

What myth are you talking about? Chicago for one, is so corrupt that not only do we have and entire broadway musical about how corrupt it is, the musical is 37 years old.
posted by Diablevert at 9:18 AM on March 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


On a hunch, we ran a bit of a data set on this, using additional data of state identification by political party ("red", "swing", "blue") and population.

Average population:
Red: 5.03M
Purple (swing): 7.04M
Blue: 7.19M

Average corruption index:
Red: 65.9
Purple (swing): 67.4
Blue: 71.5

Correlation between corruption index and party: .30
Correlation between population and party: .15
Correlation between population and corruption index: .18

In interpreting the correlation date:
As party tends toward blue, corruption index scores decrease (.30)
Population tends toward blue in larger states (.15)
As population increases, corruption decreases (.18)

Obviously this is not an exhaustive analysis by any means, and further brings up more questions about the data than the results. However, based on qualitatitive feedback on the treatment of human rights in Jesusland, a weak inference can be made that corruption is more prevelant there as well.

In case you want to dig in as well:
PDF file
XLS file

Obviously this was done in 20 minutes and is off-the-cuff on a hunch. No warranty is implied and thus inflammatory comments about quality or methodology will be used for office humour.
posted by nickrussell at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


the musical is 37 years old.

Based on real events that are almost 90 years old.
posted by Melismata at 9:21 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


So then for California to score above Oregon, wel,l that just does not match my personal experiences.

When the public servants can't be bought, they don't have to give anybody good service.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:22 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


the musical is 37 years old.

Based on real events that are almost 90 years old.


Which were a time-honored tradition back then.
posted by briank at 9:27 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Regarding Jersey, the mayor of Jersey City supposedly had a double sided desk drawer at one time. Slides out on both sides of the desk, see, so if you were say, sitting in front of the desk meeting with the mayor and wanted to put something in his desk...
posted by Diablevert at 9:28 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


There has to be something wrong with this methodology.

Wouldn't you expect that the most corrupt states would be the ones that aren't famous for corruption because they're so corrupt that no light is ever shined on the corruption?
posted by straight at 9:30 AM on March 19, 2012


As the mayor of my tiny hometown once said when asked about possible corruption issues, "It's not a question of if your chosen politician is crooked, it's a question of if he's crooked your way."
posted by teleri025 at 9:31 AM on March 19, 2012


I know anecdotal evidence is pretty weak evidence but man, from the last three States I lived in the rankings felt inverted to what they have listed. TN is 8th in the nation? really? Wisconsin with their hotbed of trying to refuse entry to the capitol trying to (over)charge protestors for cleanup costs etc... Wisconsin ranks better than Minnesota? (which in not perfect, but has always felt better run and more open than both WI and TN).

I dunno, it all could be accurate, but it certainly feels wrong.
posted by edgeways at 9:34 AM on March 19, 2012


If this is an evaluation of the laws that states have to limit influence, it has nothing to do with corruption. The two have nothing to do with each other.

It's like the tired old trope about Scandinavian countries being so liberal. They are socialist, and they don't have a lot of laws; people mistake this for being liberal. The fact of the matter is that culturally, Scandinavians are quite conservative. They don't need a lot of laws, because the behaviors that laws try to curtail don't happen often enough to warrant codification. That's changing as immigration occurs and the demographics change, but that's a topic for another thread.

Likewise the counter intuitive findings here - New Jersey "least corrupt"? Simply having laws on the books has no bearing on whether or not those laws get obeyed or not. The converse is true as well - in states where corrupt influence peddling is less likely for whatever reason, there may be less need for restrictions on influence peddling behaviors.

California in my experience, is something of an oddity. The intense bureaucracy here is designed to keep outsiders at bay, much like the convoluted streets in a medieval city. There seems to me to be a general inclination to obey the law, but there are countless loopholes or restrictions that are generally acceptable to be ignored - the locals know what they can get away with, and have a clear advantage over non-locals. I've watched with some amusement as real estate developers or corporate entities come from out of state and suffer tremendously as they fail to navigate the regulatory minefield. As far as influence peddling, no matter how restrictive and well intentioned the regulations, there are always ways around them.
posted by Xoebe at 9:37 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


[6800 word comment removed - koeselitz find a way to link to it somewhere, please don't do that here, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:37 AM on March 19, 2012


Oh, South Dakota. You rarely make me regret leaving.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:39 AM on March 19, 2012


I've never seen another area so out of touch with its state's government, or a state government that took such extreme steps to marginalize a specific geographic region, much less the one that produces the bulk of the state's revenues...

Really? Because it's not that uncommon. New York City and Chicago are both markedly at odds with their respective state houses a lot of the time, though both have a degree of self-rule which NOVA doesn't seem to, divided as it is into a bunch of different municipalities.

Take a look at the results of the 2008 presidential election. Look, specifically, at New York, if you will. Obama got 1.8 million more votes in New York than McCain did. About 1.5 million of those excess votes came from the Five Boroughs and Long Island. The rest of the state was a lot closer. Take out NYC, and Obama still wins, but only just.

Or look at Pennsylvania, where there was a 606,000 vote difference. Philadelphia county alone counts for 461,000 of those, and the four counties in the metro area together are 637,000, more than Obama won the entire state. Take out Philadelphia, and Obama loses.

Both NYC and Philadelphia majorly diverge from the rest of their state both culturally and politically. They also represent, particularly in the former's case, a huge chunk of the state's total population. As a Pennsylvania native, I can tell you that the rest of the state bears some resentment towards Philadelphia on that score, and I'm given to believe that New York has the same thing going on.
posted by valkyryn at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2012


Ohio needs to work harder to get to the "F" class, I see.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:42 AM on March 19, 2012


Color me utterly unsurprised by Michigan's grade.
posted by leslies at 9:50 AM on March 19, 2012


You know, this whole affair brings up an interesting point to my mind. I can’t say as I’ve fully digested all the of 330 criteria on which they made this assessment, but the whole phenomenon does sort of put a crystal prism on something I’ve been thinking about for a while….to wit, they may have had 330 measurable criteria on which to make this assessment, they may have measured as accurately as possible and been quite thorough and precise in their calculations, yet it’s obvious to anybody who’s actually lived in these places that they’re wrong as hell. I don’t care what the data says, Jersey is not the least corrupt state in the nation. If that’s your answer, I’d bet a $1,000 you asked the question wrong.
 
And that’s kind of the rub: The world is getting more and more quantifiable, these days. We can measure all kinds of things, collect all kinds of data points, that we never could before. And there’s a way of thinking, when you do that, a way of seeking truth in data, which is fundamentally different from the way people used to develop holistic theories without data, or with limited data…a sifting for truths, panning data like a riverbed to see if you can come up with a nugget of fresh knowledge. I mean, when Freud came up with Freudianism, he was trying to synthesize  a holistic explanation, a blanket big enough to cover the whole world, from his limited observations of maybe a couple dozen real life patients and his own mind. There’s a kind of Reasoning Out I guess you would say, that works that way, and it seems to me a different way of thinking than this Sifting From. Freud was certainly wrong as hell about a whole lot of stuff. But his central insight about the power of the unconscious mind to shape behavior was highly influential and correct, a paradigm shifter. I don’t know that you can generate that kind of insight with Sifting From. There’s a sense that because we can assemble the facts we can divine the greater meaning, that the facts in sum must be sufficient to give us this, but I don’t know that this is so….330 different measurements of the same phenomena, and wrong, wrong, wrong. Not so say that you can’t find truths this way, truths otherwise inaccessible to the human mind because we can’t apprehend the pattern in them. But I worry a little that we grow presumptuous, that because we can measure we now know, when measuring is not enough. Ah well, don’t know that I’ve explained myself too clearly….
 
posted by Diablevert at 9:50 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


zombieflanders: "Too bad DC isn't on this list, since it's seething with corruption. I would campaign so hard for your fantasy state, but I would pretty much require that Ward 8 toss Barry out (and for that matter, Ward 2 gets rid of Evans). I'm not sure who I'd want to be governor of NuDC (Janet Howell, maybe?), but I would dump most of the DC council and the Fairfax Gingrich-types."

It's a combined city/state government with weird autonomy problems. Makes it very difficult to make direct comparisons to anything else.

The political party system also makes it really difficult for DC to run local elections, since one of the two major parties is completely unviable in DC elections (for some very good reasons). Our elections show some of the most stark examples of vote splitting in the world, and we end up with a single "nonprogressive Democrat" winning with ~25% of the votes in the primary and general election, while the remaining votes are split between 5 or 6 progressive candidates. Good luck getting rid of Barry under that system, or for Congress to allow approval voting, IRV, or a similar non-FTTP system.

As a result, corruption happens often.
posted by schmod at 9:57 AM on March 19, 2012


Not-So-Dirty Jerz.

(That's my state of birth! Whoo!)
posted by Edison Carter at 10:09 AM on March 19, 2012


There’s a sense that because we can assemble the facts we can divine the greater meaning, that the facts in sum must be sufficient to give us this, but I don’t know that this is so….330 different measurements of the same phenomena, and wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is increasingly common in today's technocratic society, I find.

The fact that we've been able to get a lot of things done, e.g., go to the moon, by measuring stuff has led to the belief that we should be able to get anything done by measuring stuff.

This just isn't true.

First of all, some things probably can't be measured. Human relationships defy quantification, but they're not the only things.

Second, just because you can measure something doesn't mean you've measured everything you need to measure. This is basically the economic calculation problem, which suggests that there are simply too many factors which relate in too many ways for anyone to ever be able to get truly meaningful quantitative results out of any kind of economic analysis. Sure, you can watch the numbers go up and down, but unless you're willing to make wild assumptions about what those numbers mean, all they give you is the results of a particular model, which isn't helpful. That's just economics, but one is tempted to expand the critique to pretty much everything outside of the hard sciences and engineering.*

Third, even if you have measured everything there is to measure, the data, in itself, doesn't say anything. You need to interpret it. This requires argumentation and a certain amount of philosophizing and moral reasoning. Just because changing variable [x] affects variables [a] and [b] positively but [c] and [d] negatively and [e] not at all doesn't actually tell us anything about what we think any of those values ought to be.

Brooks, wanker though he is most of the time, talked about this last month when he suggested that he Obama administration's recent kerfluffle about contraception was caused, not because the President is particularly liberal or anti-religious, but because he's a technocrat, seeking a uniform, measurable, efficient rule for a particular issue. I didn't like most of the rest of the article, but I thought he had something there.

Similarly, it seems that this group has come up with 330 different measurements which, even all together, don't tell us jack about whether a particular state or local government is actually corrupt.

*Indeed, a professor of mine suggests that the "social sciences" are the way they are because of "physics envy," i.e. they saw the remarkable success that Newton and his progeny had in describing and predicting the natural world and they wanted that same kind of success for themselves. So, whereas in the early eighteenth century economics was viewed as a species of philosophy and ethics, today it's a "science," never mind the fact that no two economists anywhere have ever agreed on all that much.
posted by valkyryn at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree with this arbitrary grade given to my home state because I have an emotional attachment to the subject at hand.

I would like to add some anecdotal examples that I won't support with any evidence.

Furthermore, I would like to speculate wildly about other states based on the general impression I have gleaned from mass media.

In conclusion, I am alive and I like to make noise.
posted by Bonzai at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


There has to be something wrong with this methodology.

It's looking like the methodology was to present data in an odd and not immediately obvious way and then see how many people would look at a nifty info-graphic, hover over their state and a few other states of choice, and then run off to comment on how all of the data is wrong and makes no sense. The result seems to be "A whole bunch. That's how many."

As soon as I read the Minnesota: The story behind the score article linked it was apparent that this is presented very oddly in the article, but more so in the FPP. The first part of the article praises MN for how little corruption there is and then points out a few relatively minor (by comparison) scandals. Since there's no corruption, there are fewer laws against corruption, and therefore MN must be just a step away from the 25th most corrupt state because "hey, who's going to stop them?"
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wyoming, South Dakota, Georgia are the worst? Can someone do a correlation of how likely you are to be more corrupt if you are a red state? I wonder if thats causation or simple correlation?
posted by karathrace at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2012


If this is measuring ability to be corrupt, then as an example take California & Oregon on auto emissions testing:

In Oregon you have to take your car to a state run facility vs. in California you take yours to one of thousands of independently run facilities that for the right price can "make" your car pass.

Both in this instance would be rated the same for this study since they both have laws on the books for auto inspection.
posted by wcfields at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2012


If this is measuring ability to be corrupt, then as an example take California & Oregon on auto emissions testing:

Or compare to Indiana where you don't have to do emissions testing at all. Better? Worse? Certainly less corrupt, but is that all we're looking for here?
posted by valkyryn at 10:32 AM on March 19, 2012


Vermont apparently has no state ethics commission at all. Color me slightly surprised at this.
posted by jessamyn at 10:40 AM on March 19, 2012


PEOPLE: THE ARTICLE IS ASSESSING THE RISK OF CORRUPTION, NOT ACTUAL CORRUPTION ITSELF. THE ARTICLE DOES NOT CONCLUDE THAT NJ IS THE LEAST CORRUPT STATE OR THAT VERMONT IS A VERY CORRUPT STATE. IT IS ONLY ANALYZING HOW STATE GOVERNMENTS WORK AND THE RISK OF CORRUPTION ASSOCIATED WITH THESE 50 DIFFERENT MODELS!!!
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:01 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You left your caps lock thingy on there, Seymour.
posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on March 19, 2012


The rare instance in which DC is really glad it's not a state.
posted by axiom at 11:15 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Vermont apparently has no state ethics commission at all. Color me slightly surprised at this.

Ethical lapses are handled discreetly, sweetly, and permanently by the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association
posted by zippy at 12:09 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


that for the right price can "make" your car pass.

That envelope with three hundred dollars? That's for the carbon offset.
posted by zippy at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2012


Clinging to the Wreckage: “As soon as I read the Minnesota: The story behind the score article linked...”

Yeah, those "the story behind the score" things aren't really worth perusing. You're better off clicking on the categories here.
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2012


So, New Jersey and Illinois have excellent anti-corruption laws....it's just that they're poorly enforced, ignored, or manipulated to alter political influence. It's like saying a fine-dining establishment with a small menu must suck, compared to the vast possibilities of ordering at a McDonald's.

well, this is america, and that argument does work with many people...
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:25 PM on March 19, 2012


AzraelBrown: “So, New Jersey and Illinois have excellent anti-corruption laws....it's just that they're poorly enforced, ignored, or manipulated to alter political influence. It's like saying a fine-dining establishment with a small menu must suck, compared to the vast possibilities of ordering at a McDonald's.”

That's not really how this study works at all. About half of the points considered have to do with law; the other half have to do with how those laws are practically enforced.
posted by koeselitz at 12:31 PM on March 19, 2012


Yeah, those "the story behind the score" things aren't really worth perusing. You're better off clicking on the categories here.

Yeah I looked at those too and they say similar things about how this was put together. I guess the data is ok, but it tells an odd story that makes me wonder what I'm supposed to do with the results.

As an example the state budget process gets an A in MN, but the budget is incredibly messed up. So the lesson is that they messed up the budget to the point of not properly distributing money to school districts, misspending money from the legacy fund (a little opinion on that one I guess), and forcing state shutdowns but they did it all according to the extensive policies in place, so the budget process must be near perfect.

This reminds me of compliance standards like ISO9000 and its cousins, PCI, SOX, etc. that I've been a part of too many times. There is so much focus on documenting what we say our processes are that nobody looks to see if the processes are followed consistently or properly. As long as we keep reams of process documents around we can show all kinds of neat certifications all over our press and sales material. Of course, some certifications are better at this than others and I'm generalizing a bit.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:36 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is one of the few times I can be glad that DC is not a state.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:37 PM on March 19, 2012


"Again, they seem to be grading the states legal frameworks rather than their actual practices. So they'll give bad marks to a state with low transparency but a basically fair process but good marks to a state with higher transparency and transparent corruption.

This does not strike me as intuitively correct.
"

Well, no, and that's because you're begging the question — we don't know that a state with low transparency is less corrupt. We have anecdotes, but those aren't data. And the point that this study makes about basing corruption rates on convictions is salient — convictions are the ideal response to corruption, i.e. data that the system is working.

For example, California is in the process of changing their reporting requirements so that reports of judicial bribery aren't disclosed at the outset, but rather after the investigation is concluded, and only if the judge is found guilty. There's obviously a due process concern about publicly disclosing allegations, but this also makes it harder to track judges to see if there's a history of multiple complaints against them, something that can reasonably be said to increase suspicion. I can see both sides of the issue, but tend to think that reporting only if sanctions are levied will increase the opportunities for corruption.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2012


Ethical lapses are handled discreetly, sweetly, and permanently by the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association.

Most of the state is fancy to medium amber, but the recent telecom scandal in Burlington brought them down to a grade B dark, barely fit to cook with.
posted by maryr at 1:10 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


If this means that we can no longer use the glorious term "Dirty Jerz" I will be so sad.
posted by elizardbits at 1:10 PM on March 19, 2012


we don't know that a state with low transparency is less corrupt.

Or the opposite. Or, as the study suggests, that a state with high transparency is less corrupt.

That's because, like I said, they're not grading for corruption. They're grading regulatory environments. Which may be important, but isn't what the headline says they're doing.
posted by valkyryn at 1:11 PM on March 19, 2012


I have lived in California, Louisiana, and Texas. Louisiana has by far the most fucked up state government of those three.
posted by bukvich at 1:48 PM on March 19, 2012


...the recent telecom scandal in Burlington brought them down to a grade B dark, barely fit to cook with.

In that case, as humanitarian gesture to those oppressed and benighted by the VMSMA, I'm prepared to trade any amount of 'Fancy' A syrup on volumetric par for all the delicious, delicious terrible, no-good, Grade B syrup any Vermonter cares to offer.

I'll even pay the disposal fees out of my own pocket. How's that?
posted by bonehead at 2:51 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somebody should do this for Britain - i bet we'd be G-. Or H.
posted by maiamaia at 3:16 PM on March 19, 2012


Clinging to the Wreckage: “As an example the state budget process gets an A in MN, but the budget is incredibly messed up. So the lesson is that they messed up the budget to the point of not properly distributing money to school districts, misspending money from the legacy fund (a little opinion on that one I guess), and forcing state shutdowns but they did it all according to the extensive policies in place, so the budget process must be near perfect.”

Do you have some links and data on what "incredibly messed up" means? That seems pretty arbitrary to me. I mean, every person in the United States is going to think their state government is "incredibly messed up," but without some actual data behind it, there isn't much to talk about. You've mentioned a few things here, but I am not sure all of them have to do with the state budget process, and moreover not meaning any offense they seem a little vague to me, although clearly you have something in mind here.

This survey has given the criteria on which they judged the state budget process: the ability of the state legislature and of citizens to have input on the budget, the effectiveness of the oversight committee, information and reporting on budget processes, and the existence of a non-partisan office to provide budget analysis. Those do seem like significant parts of a functional budget process, don't they?

Also, there are some senses in which MN failed on their measure, and although that stuff gets blurred together it shouldn't be forgotten. For example, for the transparency of the state budget process, this survey only gave Minnesota a 50%, and it noted that the state utterly fails to provide any explanation or education on what the budget means for ordinary citizens. Those are not good things.
posted by koeselitz at 3:25 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see a lot of people giving examples from municipal government, which doesn't seem to have been studied. So, buying off a cop or taking a city councilmember to a titty bar so you can get your permits expedited would be out of the scope of the study.

A study that assessed aggregate risk of state, county and municipal risk (and metro if you are a beautiful oddball like Portland) would look very, very different I imagine.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:56 PM on March 19, 2012


Jersey bought off the Center for Public Integrity, more likely.
You didn't hear nothin' about that. You got that? Nothin'.
posted by Flunkie at 4:02 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't believe for one second that Rhode Island is only a C.

On attempting to guess which state is the least corrupt, the first thought in my head was "It's not Rhode Island, that's for damn sure." I'm really astonished that both Dakotas were more corrupt than Lil' Rhody.

I don't know who needs to work harder in this situation: The Dakotas to be respectable or Rhode Island to live up to their reputation of classy-less-ness.

Spoken as a former resident of Rhode Island who yearns for the Ocean State, wherein one might petition to have "WHATTA YOU, A ASSHOLE?" put on the license plates. Note: Not a typo.
posted by sonika at 4:03 PM on March 19, 2012


I actually found the story behind the score for Washington (we're number 3!) quite interesting, as far as a history of public disclosure goes. The warnings at the end seemed appropriate as well, and seem in keeping with what I gather from the news. As the state budget goes bad, funding to the relevant agencies slips as well.
posted by epersonae at 4:15 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, SC finally beat Georgia for once. Wow. That's like... well actually it's like eking out a win at the all-regional skunk-stink fights. Sadly, I no longer live in that state and can't properly celebrate.

This is almost as amusing as the time I moved from Mississippi to SC and felt like it was a (small) step up, only to vote in an election about whether to legalize mixed-race marriages three months later.

In other words: *sigh* Such a long way to go, no matter where you or I live.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:39 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did kind of guess . I thought 'well it sure as heck ain't Jersey.' And thus because I was supposed to never guess, I knew it had to be.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:49 PM on March 19, 2012


The "story behind the score" on Idaho is spot-on, and written by a local* reporter who does a hell of a job keeping track of the day to day atrocities activities of the Idaho Legislature.

*for values of local that include neighboring states.
posted by gamera at 6:59 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


In conclusion, I am alive and I like to make noise.

Hear! Hear!
posted by srboisvert at 4:23 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a life-long Illinoisan, it still baffles me that people honestly our state is more corrupt than anywhere else. Illinois isn't more corrupt, we just make theater from our corruption.

I agree. The corruption "on the ground" is quite low. We (finally) take it seriously that you shouldn't be able to pay off the drivers' license examiner or the guy proctoring the civil service test to get our way. Which apparently, some states do not yet take seriously.

The mid level corruption, the things like the brother-in-law of the mayor having a sweet contract, happens, but I honestly believe that it isn't direct corruption. I think it is pretty rare for a politician to go out and say "give my buddy this contract". Instead, it is soft corruption, where the vendor says "hey, I'm so-and-so's brother, and I'm sure he would appreciate it if I got this deal" and then the government official says "what the hell, this guy is no worse than anyone else".

Then there is Blagojevich, who is in a class all to himself.

Don't discount that there are political reasons for the "Illinois is corrupt" meme being perpetuated beyond what is deserved: people trying to discredit Obama.
posted by gjc at 6:18 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree. The corruption "on the ground" is quite low.

Yes, but Chicago is the only place I could bribe the cop who guarded the door letting in "returners" with stamped hands, thus avoiding the long wait to get my hand stamped, at the Blues Festival. Well worth the $20 bribe.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2012


Meh. Chicago used to "let you take care of that speeding ticket right here, rather than wasting your time in court." Chicago is a thousand times less corrupt than it was 40 years ago, and a million times less corrupt than it was 100 years ago.
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on March 20, 2012


Mental Wimp: “Yes, but Chicago is the only place I could bribe the cop who guarded the door letting in ‘returners’ with stamped hands, thus avoiding the long wait to get my hand stamped, at the Blues Festival. Well worth the $20 bribe.”

The 'corruption' in this scenario seems to be the fact that a police officer whose paycheck is paid by taxpayers is guarding the door at a music festival.
posted by koeselitz at 2:43 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Time for me to move.
posted by Eratosthenes at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2012


The 'corruption' in this scenario seems to be the fact that a police officer whose paycheck is paid by taxpayers is guarding the door at a music festival.

Aw, c'mon, koeselitz, in this scenario can't I be a little bit corrupt, too?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:07 AM on March 21, 2012


Okay, just a little. But be home by bedtime.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on March 21, 2012


It's too bad that this became a state Miss Corrupt America anti-beauty pageant, because I think it does a disservice to the project, which is a collaborative effort of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.

The project is self-described as a "data-driven analysis of each state’s laws and practices that deter corruption and promote accountability and openness." It says that the investigation "consulted 100 government integrity experts to determine what to measure," and from there they developed 330 specific measures in 14 broad categories. They used experienced local journalists in grading each state government on its corruption risk.

While the "risk of corruption" analysis might not make as exciting as reading as an actual corruption analysis, it is a tool for citizens and policymakers to see and compare state governments across an array of significant practices. CPI does some great investigative journalism and lord knows there is little enough of that. Here's to more transparency tools.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:44 PM on March 27, 2012


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