WASHINGTON – A new report on openness and accountability at state capitals doesn’t do much to help the perception that “government ethics” is an oxymoron.
An eight-month investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International gives most state governments low marks when it comes to tackling corruption. Governments in much of the WTOP listening area rank among the worst.
The Old Dominion is one of eight states to receive an “F” grade and ranks 47 out of 50 in the report.
“Virginia is one of nine states with no statewide ethics commission at all, one of four states with no campaign finance limits, and one of only two states where the legislators are handpicking the judges before whom many of them ultimately practice law,” Witkin says.
Their one bright spot is in its internal auditing, which received an “A.”
Maryland didn’t fare much better in the report. It received a “D-,” and ranks 40 out of 50.
“There have been some changes in Annapolis,” Witkin says. “The Maryland political financing system, for instance, is generally well regarded. But Annapolis remains a fairly cozy, clubby place without a lot of sunlight or transparency.”
No states received an “A” in this report, which examined each state on 330 data points on accountability.
The state that came out on top in the report, with a grade of “B+,” was New Jersey, a state with a long history of corruption.
“Those results caused us to shake our heads a little bit,” Witkin says.
But the report found New Jersey has enacted several tough ethics and disclosure laws in reaction to a series of scandals in 2004.