The Center for Public Integrity recently published its comprehensive nationwide investigation into states’ integrity. Each state was evaluated by local professional journalists by 245 different questions regarding the state’s policies in place and their enforcement.
The organization’s intent was not to measure the corruption of each state, but rather the relative possibility of it occurring.
Every state should have legislation in place to deter the corruption of public officials with minimal loopholes allowed.
This is important to the proper functioning of a representative democracy. Beyond looking at potential for corruption, these scores explain a large component of difficulty in reform throughout the nation. Barriers are being put into place to maintain the status quo in politics.
Nearly half of all states, 24 total, failed political financing. Only twelve of those who did pass received a “C-” or higher. This is in the light of the current election season where Wall Street is under significant scrutiny by the democratic candidates, and established politicians are being criticized in the polls. Campaign finance reform has been a contentious topic of debate since the landmark Citizens United v. FEC 2010 supreme court case.
Most states have some form of legislation in place to regulate the flow of money for political parties and candidates, but the laws are generally ineffective and outright ignored.
States such as Colorado completely fail to audit political contributors which leaves a lot of room for poor conduct hidden from the public. This is opposed to states like Texas that fail to have any significant legislation in place to monitor political candidates.
Campaign finance has no easy solution largely due to its very nature. There is little incentive for incumbent politicians to push for any serious reform, and it is difficult for the public to follow every dollar that is unaccounted for.
Not until there are national scandals will most state legislatures rewrite campaign law to more fairly include all interested candidates.
However, the election process is not full of absolute gloom. All but 17 states passed electoral oversight. Areas of improvement consistent among many states include public access to information.
It was found that while many states properly funded and maintained entities to monitor elections, the information that these organizations produce is not easily accessible.
As it would be expected, when the actual election is occurring and votes are counted, there are few opportunities for things to go wrong, but everything up until that point is largely fair game for politicians in many districts.
Colorado in Review
Colorado received a composite score of 67, or “D+”, ranking 13th among the nation and tying with a handful of other states including Nebraska and Iowa.
The state’s “B+” in budget processes was largely brought down by its inability to provide regular documentation and information for the public to participate with. The Center placed a new emphasis on this year’s analysis in the availability of public and open data format files.
Data is provided only once a year with no quarterly or mid-year reports analyzing the status of the state budget. Furthermore, multi-year projections are limited to only 3 years in the future by the legislative and executive branches, these estimates can vary wildly.
There have not been many serious ethical dilemmas in the state recently, but Colorado still flunked the “Ethics Enforcement Agencies” category. It does have an independent ethics commission responsible for overseeing the executive branch, but it is insufficiently funded.
This results in an agency with correct intentions, but not supervised to prevent inappropriate gifts or behaviors. Citizens have no ability to access any information about the ethics committee either.
The final results of this year’s integrity report were generally disappointing, revealing that states are failing to ensure accountability across the board, and citizens are being discouraged from attempting to find any information about these circumstances.
However, there are still bigger concerns in the upcoming election, and transparency will unfortunately fly under the radar until a groundbreaking event occurs.
But when this time occurs, people will fully begin to realize the low expectations that are being upheld for elected and potential officials.
Visit the Center’s website: publicintegrity.org for the full report.