Pennsylvania Flunks State Integrity Investigation

November 12, 2015

Our home state of Pennsylvania was one of 11 states to flunk the Center for Public Integrity’s research into the systems in place to deter corruption in state government and 44th overall. The CPI said it had “[a]n entrenched culture of malfeasance.”

Pennsylvania fell from the C- grade that it earned in a similar assessment in 2012. The study’s authors said that changes were made to the questions and methodology so that the two scores were not directly comparable.

The description of Pennsylvania pointed to a lack of campaign contribution limits and prohibitions on gift giving as part of the problem in PA. It also pointed to the scandal surrounding PA Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

There have been recent initiatives to ban gifts to political appointees and independent agencies like the Turnpike Commission and the Liquor Control Board. While these actions brought the state’s score up for executive accountability, it’s score for legislative and judicial accountability was among the worst of the states.

According to the article, 40 members or top aides of the PA Legislature plead guilty or were found guilty to public corruption charges in the past four decades. Not one was censured or reprimanded by the legislature’s ethics committee.

If there is a bright spot for Pennsylvania, it is that other states did not fare much better. Only three states managed to earn higher than a D+ in the State Integrity Investigation. Overall, the investigation found numerous examples of exemptions within open records laws, conflicts of interest, and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Alaska was tops with a C, while California and Connecticut placed next with a C-.

Michigan placed dead last, ranking 50th and earning its F because of an “honor system with no honor.” Michigan received an F in 10 out of the 13 categories of ranking, earning a passing grade only on electoral oversight, internal auditing and the state budget process.