It’s no secret that government officials do corrupt things. Sometimes they get caught for it, and their misdeeds are splashed all over the news and hotly debated for all of a week. (For the latest example, see coverage of Marco Rubio’s alleged use of Republican party credit cards for personal expenses). But more often than not, and especially at the state level, less scandalous wrongdoings like conflicts of interest, election oversights, and cozying up to lobbyists are buried under a labyrinth of bureaucratic rules or spared public scrutiny by carefully orchestrated loopholes.
A State Integrity Investigation released by the nonprofit investigative reporting group Center for Public Integrity, delved deep into state government policies and emerged with an even drearier picture than you might have imagined. Using 245 specific “indicators” that measured transparency and accountability, the journalists combed through records and laws and then ranked each state an overall letter grade. The results are grim: only three states (Alaska, California, and Connecticut) got higher than a D+ and 11 states flunked all together. In other words, if Integrity were a college course, a fourth of our nation’s state governments would have to retake it.
The CPI’s report lays out this immense amount of data in a way that’s comprehensive, easy to understand, and pretty fun to use. You can sort states by total ranking to see who came in at the top of its class (Alaska, with a C) and who came in at the scummy bottom (Michigan). Click on individual states to see a breakdown of the scoreboard, which includes 13 categories like executive accountability, political financing, and public access to information. Within those categories, you can even view the questions that were asked to determine the score.
The Center for Public Integrity’s hope is that by revealing the unglamorous misdeeds of our loyal civil servants, we’ll be better equipped to tackle the issues. For starters, the infographic offers an email feature so you can tell your local representatives about their poor grade.