I am off Washington’s back this week, but here’s a state government slap in the face that will really frost you.
The State Integrity Investigation is a data-driven assessment of state governments’ transparency and accountability.[ad#Google Adsense 336×280-IA]Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it. If its findings are correct, and I have no reason to doubt them, the states are making sure we don’t hear about it.
The investigation looks at things like the accessibility of information from state governments, what kind of bribes – I’m sorry – gratuities are being paid by lobbyists and elected officials.
You know the routine, I’m sure.
Well, I hope you’re sitting down, because this year’s numbers are out and they are unbelievable.
Eleven states received a failing grade. And the highest grade, a “C,” was awarded to Alaska. That’s the highest!
And in public access to information, all but six states failed: 44 out of 50 failed!
They didn’t do poorly; they failed, a grade of F. And only three of the six that passed received grades above a D+.[Editor’s note: Three out of six states received above a D+.]
The examples of states’ lawmakers going out of their way to block access to information are just ridiculous. According to the report, open record laws are laced with loopholes that allow glaring conflicts of interest and cozy relationships with lobbyists.
In Idaho, despite a $50 cap on gifts to Idaho state lawmakers, a lobbyist spent $2,250 to host a state senator and his wife at an annual charity golf tournament.
The Massachusetts State Police wanted $130,000 to release records to one investigative group about narcotic seizures in their prisons. In other requests, the police have asked for more than $2million to pay for the cost of releasing the information requested.
They have been awarded the Golden Padlock award for their abiding commitment to secrecy and information suppression.
In New Mexico, lawmakers passed a law that made their emails exempt from public record laws. You have to have the elected official’s permission to look at his emails. I’m sure that will be easy to get.
In Delaware, the Public Integrity Commission that oversees lobbying and ethics laws has only two full-time employees. A special state prosecutor said it was impossible to mount a serious investigation into any potential wrongdoing.
Guess who sets up that commission?
New York leads the way, though, with 14 lawmakers who have left office since 2012 for legal or ethical issues. But that number does not include those leaders of the state government who have been charged with corruption, but have remained in office.
And as unbelievable as it may seem, of the 14 who have left office in New York, only one has been sanctioned by the state’s ethics commission.
Maybe most disturbing, the report found that loopholes and rampant exemptions are a common part of statehouse culture nationwide. And, since the statehouses are creating the laws and the loopholes, it is up to them to decide what happens.
To be entirely fair, there are two categories that have seen improvement since the 2012 report: auditing and budget tranparency. But they are overshadowed almost completely by the scope of the negatives in this report.
The stories about conflicts of interest and the loopholes that protect the lawmakers are endless. Take a look at the report summary online. It is truly unbelievable.
Now that’s a real cheek smacker.
Source: Wealthy Retirement