Monday, November 9, 2015

US states score poorly on cronyism & corruption test

The majority of governments are hotbeds of cronyism, with the public shut out from true accountability by loophole-ridden open-records laws

US states score poorly on cronyism & corruption test

© Amr Abdallah Dalsh
The majority of state governments are hotbeds of cronyism, with the public shut out from true accountability by loophole-ridden open-records laws, according to a new report on the integrity of statehouses throughout the US. 
Eleven of the 50 US states received failing grades for transparency and accountability, while only three earned a score about 70 percent. Alaska, with a score of 76, a "C" grade, was rated highest by the Center for Public Integrity, which just released its 2015 State Integrity Investigation, "a data-driven assessment of state government." 

Michigan came in dead last, with a score of 51.

Nevada scored 46th, F, with a score of 57:

"The State Integrity Investigation assesses the existence, effectiveness, and accessibility (i.e. citizen access) of key governance and anti-corruption mechanisms through a qualitative and indicator-based research process," the Center for Public Integrity and its partner, Global Integrity, explained their comprehensive probe of state laws and political cultures from coast to coast.

The investigation's findings are a cavalcade of embarrassing revelations about the overall climate of government transparency in the United States. 

From states that exempt entire branches of their government from open-records laws to states that absolutely refuse to seriously investigate ethics violations, the report's findings are “disappointing but not surprising,” said Paula A. Franzese, a state government ethics expert at the Seton Hall University School of Law.

In New Mexico, for instance, legislators passed a resolution – without needing the governor's approval – to exempt their emails from public records inquiries. "I think it’s up to me to decide if you can have my record,” one New Mexico representative said of the 2013 effort.

Delaware's Public Integrity Commission, the state's lobbying and ethics watchdog, has just two full-time staff members, the probe revealed. In 2013, a special state prosecutor found that the agency was so shorthanded, it was not able “to undertake any serious inquiry or investigation into potential wrongdoing.”

In 70 percent of states, part-time state lawmakers can vote on bills that present a clear conflict of interest with their private dealings. 

Such was the case in Missouri this year, when a legislator introduced a bill barring municipalities from banning plastic bags at grocery stores. The lawmaker – the director for the Missouri Grocers Association – claimed he was standing up for shopper rights. The bill eventually passed, overriding the governor's veto.

The investigation included assessments of 13 categories within all 50 state governments. Those categories included: public access to information, political finance, electoral oversight, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, state civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, ethics enforcement agencies, and state pension fund management.

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For each state, the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity contacted numerous state-level organizations and experts involved in government transparency and accountability to weigh-in on a host of questions pertaining to state government operations. 

The report, then, is a result of a "blend of social science and journalism" with an "aim to assessing the most salient corruption risks in each state."

Some states with poor overall scores did earn decent grades in certain categories. For instance, 29 earned a B- or better for auditing processes, and 16 earned a B- or better for budget transparency. States like Connecticut and Rhode Island were the near the top of the rankings following scandals that led to the tightening of ethics laws.

READ MORE: ​Oligarchy, not democracy: Americans have ‘near-zero’ input on policy – report

Many lowest-ranked states are bastions of American conservatism, where politicians champion limited government. Yet those states, such as Nevada and Wyoming, were joined at the bottom by the likes of Pennsylvania and Delaware, East Coast states that are considered politically liberal compared to the rest of the US.

“It’s very, very difficult for legislatures to focus on these things and improve them because they don’t want these laws, they don’t want to enforce them, and they don’t want to fund the people enforcing them," said Robert Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a now-defunct organization dedicated to ethics and lobbying laws in local and state governments. 

We are standing for Nevada National office our third and final time, putting it all on the line when most do not care or dare to turn off the TV.

Congress, the Courts and Executive Branch of government so far failed to reign in destructive deficit spending that created $164 Trillion of mostly unfunded debt liabilities that dwarf revenues by 55 times in a contracting $18 Trillion dollar economy, with a recent $3 Trillion government healthcare tax revenue windfall not likely to be repeated:

Another way to look at this is if Washington, DC decided to freeze spending and our real economy did not continue to contract, it might still take 55 years to pay, retire and service burgeoning debt.

If interest rates recover to restore real markets, an unlikely current prospect, each additional percentage point multiplied times $164 Trillion Treasury debt, adds an unplayable $1.64 trillion to a $3.7 Trillion Federal Budget.

This is a 44% budget increase in a time of economic contraction that can cripple out and crowd out business, jobs and our economic prosperity.

This could create a downward economic governance spiral like that faced by one of the greatest American economists from 1929 to 1934, when he changed his outlook from permanent prosperity to debt default deflation as far as they eye could see:

One of these days Alice ~ Ralph Cramden, The Honeymooners

XXV. Real Life Political Solutions

Our three long-term political governance simple solutions are:

A) Freeze government red tape, real spending and waste for seven years like Reagan, Grace, Clinton, Gingrich, Joseph and the Pharaoh did during seven tough years:

B) Implement the Constitutional Uniform Nobel Laureate-backed 28 basis point (.0028) Automatic Payment Transparent Transaction Tax to replace and reduce unproductive government debt, regressive income taxes and progressively increase productive private sales, profits and tax revenues:

C) Encourage seven years of saving during the resultant times of plenty to be the first administration since Andrew Jackson in 1834 to retire all but $33,733 of public debt. We will use prosperity to liberate Americans from government dependence and debts into greater equity and responsible freedom for all:

The alternative is utter economic failure leading to the collapse of our government.


Richard Charles

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