The Ten Most Corrupt State Governments in the United States

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Alabama is No. 10 and Louisiana is Not Listed At All?

The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson

A new online celebrity tabloid is getting traffic from Facebook and Twitter for a story making the rounds claiming to rank the 10 most corrupt state governments in the United States based on “a national poll.” The problem is, the so-called news outlet does not reveal who conducted the poll or the methodology behind it. Nor does it give photo credits for the sensational photos it uses, so I’m sure the publisher won’t mind if we steal them to attack their analysis.

As an experienced political journalist and an expert in public opinion research who has lived and worked as a journalist and an academic in many of these states, I find some serious flaws with these results.

This sensational tabloid called “The Richest,” which runs almost exclusively top ten list stories such as the “10 movies with the biggest cult following” and “10 shockingly risky foods,” claims to have found Georgia to be the most corrupt state in the union with a methodology that is supposedly based on “a nationwide poll that has recently been conducted” rating state governments on “14 different areas, all of which revolve around honesty, genuine hard work and competency.”


No. 1 Georgia is allegedly the state that has “the greatest levels of corruption as well as lack of accountability in the country.” Furthermore, these so-called corrupt states all share “common failures, such as in the category of redistricting, political financing, public access to information, ethics enforcement agencies and lobbying disclosure.”

I’m wondering how Louisiana missed out on this list? In my experience, it has by far the most corrupt political system of any state in the country. If you want to find cronyism, nepotism, and missing taxpayer money in the hands of politicians, look to Louisiana.

Furthermore, No. 10 Alabama only barely made the top ten list at number 10. While the real problem with the government in Alabama is not so much corruption but simply ignorance and incompetence since the tea party Republicans took over the legislature in 2010, I would still put Alabama second on the list, not tenth.


This looks like one of my photos looking north from the Swan-Joy covered bridge in Blount County. Is this really a representative photo of Alabama?

Alabama, according to this celebrity tabloid, “is the least dishonest among all states included,” according to this alleged “State Integrity Investigation.” The state received a total of 3 F’s in the following areas: 1) public access to information, 2) redistricting, and 3) political financing. The state also received a D- in legislative accountability as well as a D in state pension fund management.

What in the F _ _ _ are they talking about? For starters, the state has had one of the best state employee pension funds in the country for decades. While you can knock David Bronner and the Retirement System of Alabama for many things, including investing too much in newspaper stock and golf courses since the golf boom is clearly over, it is still one of the best in the country for return on investment.

Besides, Bronner has been one of Republican Governor Robert Bentley’s biggest critics for not taking billions in federal money to expand Medicaid and get more poor people on the health care rolls, creating hundreds if not thousands of jobs in the process.

Clearly these so-called reporters don’t know what the F _ _ _ they are talking about.

Public access to information is a problem in Alabama, but that is not really the fault of the state government and has nothing to do with “corruption” per se. That is the fault of the lamestream media in Alabama, mostly the Newhouse newspapers which are now in an all out war to control a monopoly on information with their new, young, inexperienced bloggers at

Redistricting is a problem in all the states in the country controlled by Republican governors and legislatures, since they have set up a system that perpetuates white, conservative power in Congress that will hamper our ability to solve problems for decades, while at the same time diluting minority power by allowing just a few mostly black districts where only Democrats can get elected.

The biggest problem the country faces right now are the tea party conservatives in Congress who simply refuse to work with President Barack Obama to get anything done. But I’m sure that problem does not concern the rich people who read something called “The Richest,” since they like a do-nothing government that regulates nothing and leaves their money alone so they can avoid paying taxes altogether by hiding their profits in foreign bank accounts.

The latest drive to cripple the IRS is also probably just fine with them. The best kind of government to them is one that does not work at all.


I doubt if No. 2 South Dakota should even be on this list, since you never really here much about problems of corruption a state that even The Richest admits “has one of the lowest population densities in the whole of the United States.” It ostensibly “has an extremely corrupt government,” however, because “the state does not have an ethics commission, comprehensive state ethics laws (or) satisfactory transparency laws.”

It also does not put effort into requiring public officials, other than its judges, to disclose information about their assets and income. In addition to this, the state law also has a loophole that allows individuals to make unlimited donations to political campaigns. Fortunately, there have been major improvements in the integrity of the state, in the form of online state records.

What the f _ _ _? The entire country is now operating under a law that allows individuals to make unlimited donations to political campaigns. Have the so-called reporters at The Richest not heard about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission?

If they want to rate states based on online information, Alabama should probably be ranked number one as the worst. It is the only state where reporters are still required to pay a per page rate to get access to court decisions. And in spite of a bunch of praise from Google for cooperating with spying on its citizens with the Google Earth-Virtual Alabama system, Alabama’s Website for all practical purposes does not work at all. Try setting up a corporation using it. We went through that process recently. It took two years to set up a simple LLC corporation, and an attorney had to accomplish it the old fashioned way. By using the U.S. mail.


In the 14 different categories used by the State Integrity Investigation to score the corruption level of states in the U.S., No. 3 Wyoming received an F in 9 of them. I have no doubt that Dick Cheney’s home state of Wyoming should be on this list, so maybe they have some points here.

The mechanism being implemented by the state for self-governance is significantly poor. Also, according to the report, there are no methods or platforms available for state employees to report any form of corruption – there are no hot lines nor websites. In addition, Wyoming has also enforced the same political machine for some time now. Both of the state’s U.S. senators have been R(sic)epublicans since the year 1977. In the year 2006, the state’s primarily Republican legislature overrode a banning from the governor and regarded themselves as exempt from the open records laws. This means that drafted bills as well as all staff communications are allowed to be kept secret until the proposal of a bill.

But I have some doubts about whether Virginia really belongs on this list.


There are many ethical areas where the state of No. 4 Virginia fails to deliver. These include weak consumer protection, lack of government insight, and a hazy line between large businesses and politicians … the state received a total of 9 F’s. One of the greatest drawbacks is that the state is exempted in the State Corporation Commission, which is a regulatory agency responsible for overseeing all types of utilities, railroads, financial institutions and businesses. Even the General Assembly Conflict of Interests Act has proven to be greatly inefficient. Another weakness of the state is in its enforcement of disclosure laws.

Yeah, but being so close to Washington, Virginia has a government and a Website that actually works. Something that cannot be said for some of the other states on this list.


Now I admit to not knowing much about the state of No. 5 Maine, but I have my doubts that their biggest problems are “legislative accountability, public access to information and lobbying disclosure…” It could very well be that “possible conflicts of interest as well as corruption are in existence,” there, although we suspect that Democratic Senator Jim Brannigan’s failure to disclose some information about government contracts is par for the course in many states. Google Senator Jim Brannigan of Maine and you won’t find much. Maybe Maine needs a better independent news site too.


It is probably accurate to include No. 6 South Carolina in the top 10 list of corrupt states. The Richest gave it a a grade of F for a lack of accountability in all three branches of government, judicial, legislative and executive. Although we doubt that the biggest problem was the fact that “the State Ethics Commission budget … was cut six times in just the past three years.” We also doubt that cutting “regulations on limiting contributions made to political parties,” is that big of a problem, unless you really think “making the state more prone to unnecessary spending” is a real issue.

Here, again, the real issue is national, and has nothing to do with state government “corruption.” If you really believe corporations are “people,” and that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution really means rich people like the Koch brothers and corporations like Exxon-Mobile, BP and Southern Company should be allowed to control our political system with unlimited donations to Republican politicians of their choosing who tout their no regulations and no taxes line, then there is no problem. If, on the other hand, you believe corporations and rich people ought to pay some reasonable level of taxes and that government regulations are also critical for government to work, then the solution is electing Democrats to state and national office who believe regulations and taxes are necessary.


No. 7 North Dakota was also graded with 8 F’s in this so-called “State Integrity Investigation.” The state was knocked on “ethics enforcement agencies, political financing, lobbying disclosure and redistricting.” According to the so-called investigation, “the problems that the state is currently facing in terms of accountability can result in major conflicts of interest.”

Really? How well does the state government serve citizens? That is my question. I’ve never seen or heard much about any real problems with the government in North Dakota, so I suspect this is a red herring, like much of this report.


The state of No. 8 Michigan also got 10 F’s, some attributed to “accountability in all of the three government branches,” including “lobbying, political financing and redistricting.”

Michigan is also one of the three remaining states that supposedly “lack rules when it comes to financial disclosures for governors and law makers.” According to the report, “the state still does not have a system that will allow it to monitor state lobbying – one of the most corrupt areas in the whole United States.”

Really? I honestly don’t know of any state that does not suffer from that problem, but it is hardly the biggest problem with government in the 50 states. I would like to see a well researched list of the states where government is ranked by citizens as actually working for them or against them. Now that would make for an eye opening report worthy of a bunch of Facebook traffic.


According to this phelonious “investigation,” No. 9 Tennessee received an overall grade of C. “However, the state was graded with an F in the area of redistricting, a D- in the area of ethics enforcement agencies, and a C- in both political financing and lobbying disclosure. The biggest problem that the state is facing is its extremely secretive redistricting process.”

Ridiculous. The biggest political problem in Tennessee, where I lived and worked on a Ph.D. for four years, is the same one facing No. 10 Alabama:

Run amok ignorance and incompetence based on an overly active religious imagination that infects politics with a conservatism that mistakes capitalism for democracy.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.