• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Most Corrupt States

Monkey Cagers John Sides and Lee Sigelman rank the states on corruption and, as expected, Louisiana is at the top.  Surprisingly, Illinois is a relative piker, coming in 6th place but only 61 percent as much corruptitude:

Matt Yglesias is convinced.   The problems, however, with the rankings are manifold.

The measure being used is “the total number of public corruption convictions from 1997 to 2006 per 100,000 residents.”  Only the 35 most populous states are included in the study, which was compiled in something called the Corporate Crime Reporter in October 2007.

Is this really what we mean by “most corrupt”? I don’t think so.   As Claire Suddath notes in TIME’s “Brief History of Illinois Corruption”:

Blagojevich is the sixth Illinois governor to be subjected to arrest or indictment — seventh if you count Joel Aldrich Matteson (governor from 1853-1857), who tried to cash $200,000 of stolen government scrip he “found” in a shoebox.

Surely, governors count for more than low profile local officials?

And why divide by the size of the population?  Every state has precisely one governor, two senators, one secretary of state, etc. regardless of population.   It’s true that large states have more Members of Congress and tend to have more local officials.  But, again, adding them in muddies the waters unnecessarily.

Beyond that, the use of “convictions” as a measure is problematic.  Lewis Grizzard used to joke that it was hard to find 12 people in Louisiana who thought stealing was a crime.  It’s not implausible that states and localities with more political corruption have a higher threshhold of tolerance for bad behavior, excusing minor graft as “just the way it is” and willing to punish only those whose crimes exceed the norm.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. caj says:

    What a surprise that the top 4 are all Southern States!!!!
    Yes, the good old Republican states, so is it any wonder….power and greed are what that party thrive on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. tom p says:

    I am disappointed… we here in Misery got some work to do… 15th place! Hmmmphhh!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. just me says:

    Although anyone who has ever lived in LA or KY would immediately know that both of those states are mostly democrat controlled. My dad (I grew up in KY) fit much more with the GOP in his opinions but was a registered democrat because, almost all the local and in some cases county and state elections were really decided during the primary. Locally more often than not the democrat either ran unopposed, or had such a huge advantage over the republican that he might as well have run unopposed.

    I would also think convictions aren’t the best measure of corruption-after all what is more corrupt the guy who gets caught and convicted or a system where everyone turns a bind eye to the corruption and it is expected? Just look at Bagojevich-he was elected and especially re-elected in spite of rumors about his corruption.

    How many years has Blago been dirty? How long have their been suspicions about the Chicago Daley political machine? Anyone doubt that there isn’t some at the very least unethical if not illegal stuff going on there?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Bithead says:

    So, can we now admit to ourselves that the reason NOLA was so fouled up in Katrina wasn’t the Bush administration, and was Louisiana’s corrupt ‘public servants’?

    I mean, isn’t that the next logical step?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. ap says:

    What a surprise that the top 4 are all Southern States!!!!
    Yes, the good old Republican states, so is it any wonder….power and greed are what that party thrive on.

    louisiana is not a republican state…and why stop at 4? why not the top 10? according to this list, 6 for dems, 3 for repubs, and 1 barely leaning dem in LA.

    of course, let me fill in your rebuttal:

    OMG GOPers ARE EVIL!!!! BUSH LIED PEOPLE DIED.

    corruption is not a partisan issue, its a politician issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. tom p says:

    So, can we now admit to ourselves that the reason NOLA was so fouled up in Katrina wasn’t the Bush administration, and was Louisiana’s corrupt ‘public servants’?

    I mean, isn’t that the next logical step?

    Not quite Bit, one would have to discount totally the “Heckuvajob, Brownie” comment to reach that step. It showed that Bush, not only did he not have a clue, he did not care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    And why divide by the size of the population? Every state has precisely one governor, two senators, one secretary of state, etc. regardless of population. It’s true that large states have more Members of Congress and tend to have more local officials. But, again, adding them in muddies the waters unnecessarily.

    I mostly agree. For things like U.S. Senators, Governors, and other offices invariant to population then the data should not be normalized to population. U.S. Congressmen, State level assemblymen and local officials…okay normalize by population. So a composite index.

    Not quite Bit, one would have to discount totally the “Heckuvajob, Brownie” comment to reach that step. It showed that Bush, not only did he not have a clue, he did not care.

    You mean state and local officials were in no way responsible?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. tom p says:

    You mean state and local officials were in no way responsible?

    Not quite, Steve. Reread my comment with your considerable powers of comprehension, and I think my point will come clear to you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. John Burgess says:

    A study that purports to measure local corruption but does not include either Rhode Island or Delaware? Ha ha ha!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Floyd says:

    The above chart has little value.
    Competent corruption remains unexposed!
    Incompetent corruption that remains unpunished is not mentioned.
    So, conviction rates could be construed as a measure of intolerance of corruption, not tolerance, depending on the percentage of all corruption that is both detected and punished.
    Perhaps the chart might be an indicator of a ranking of incompetence in state elected officials,albeit a poor one.
    Illinois still remains the most corrupt state in the union!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Floyd says:

    Does the chart simply indicate that Oregon tolerates the most corruption without legal action, or does it indicate that they have the smallest number corrupt officials?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Brett says:

    What’s so special about Mississippi and Louisiana that makes them so corrupt? The rest of the states seem to be almost on a line of slowly increasing corruption – until suddenly Mississippi and Louisiana jump way out ahead of the pack.

    I’m guessing that in Louisiana’s case it has and had to do with oil, but what about Mississippi?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Bithead says:

    Not quite Bit, one would have to discount totally the “Heckuvajob, Brownie” comment to reach that step. It showed that Bush, not only did he not have a clue, he did not care.

    No, it doesn’t. what it showed was that Bush was recoginzing that the federal government lived up to the expectations both they and the states thee signed on for, and Brown did a fair enough job there. The complaints, apparently are because the federal government dind’t anticiapet the level of unfitness in the democrats within those states.

    Nagin, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0