WIUM Tristates Public Radio

State Integrity Investigation Sheds Discouraging Light on Tri States

Nov 9, 2015

The Center for Public Integrity has released the results of what it calls, “a data-driven assessment of state laws and practices that are meant to deter corruption while promoting transparency and accountability.”

      

It’s called the State Integrity Investigation, and it rates the government operations of all 50 states through in-depth analysis of the following 13 categories:

  • Public Access to Information
  • Political Financing
  • Electoral Oversight
  • Executive Accountability
  • Legislative Accountability
  • Judicial Accountability
  • State Budget Processes
  • State Civil Service Management
  • Procurement
  • Internal Auditing
  • Lobbying Disclosure
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies
  • State Pension Fund Management

The investigation was conducted by The Center for Public Integrity, in cooperation with Global Integrity.
Credit Credit: CPI

The 13 individual scores are then averaged, leaving each state with an overall integrity rating. This year’s results are nothing short of staggering.

Nicholas Kusnetz is a project manager with the CPI. He said only three states scored higher than a D grade with Alaska having the highest overall integrity score with a 76 out of 100.

Eleven states received failing scores including Pennsylvania, Ohlahoma, South Dakota and Kansas. In the tri states, Illinois and Iowa both received a score of 67 and Missouri earned 62 points.

“I think it points out what’s lacking in most states, which is modernized access to information. A lot of public records laws are decades old now and as the years go on they get bloated with more and more loopholes and exceptions,” Kusnetz said.

Kusnetz added that this issue stems from the fact that our state leaders create the very laws that govern them. This leads to a lot of reluctance when it comes reform.

While this may be the case, Kusnetz said some states have taken note of the results of the investigation. For example, Iowa scored quite low in the Public Access to Information category when the study was first conducted in 2012.      

The state since developed the Iowa Public Information Board, which Kusnetz said reviews complaints from citizens when their information requests are denied.     

This year, Iowa ranked first in the nation in Public Access to Information. Overall, Iowa tied for 10th in the country, Illinois ranked 13th, and Missouri was 26th in the nation.  (See full results here)

Despite the fact that major government reform is rare, Kusnetz said he hopes the investigation will open citizens’ eyes to what their state is doing well, and perhaps what needs to be changed. 

The data for the study was gathered by experienced reporters all over the country who were guided by specific questions and indicators. This process was first developed by Global Integrity, a nonprofit organization that does similar investigations on an international scale.