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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Study ranks state governments on transparency, corruption

To many, “government integrity” is, and has always been, an oxymoron. We rarely expect those who we hire to serve us from whichever office, chamber or desk, to remain, or retain, the commitment to honest, open government they may have promised when they were asking for our vote. Occasionally, in times of particularly lean trust in the leaders we have, we set aside our cynicism and look to a candidate who says the right things about restoring that trust, and we sweep them into office, hoping that this time, it will be different.

But there are no guarantees. If the candidates we elect create new, government accountability laws, there is no evidence they will either enforce them against their cronies, or follow them themselves. “[T]he states with the worst reputations and sorriest histories of political corruption face the most public pressure to clean up their acts, so they pass new laws and strengthen old ones to create a framework of integrity,” wrote Andy Shaw, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, a non-profit government watchdog group based in Chicago.

“That doesn’t mean that all of the public officials in those states are following the new rules or obeying the new laws,” he continued, “—you can lead a horse to water…etc., etc.—but at least they know what’s expected.”

Shaw was explaining the motivation behind, and usefulness of, his group’s third BGA-Alper Services Integrity Index.

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