A new State Integrity Investigation* report ranks the fifty states and gives them a letter grade on just how corrupt, non-transparent or lacking in accountability they are. None made an A, eight got Fs. Georgia is the worst; New Jersey the best (apparently they have recently enacted a bunch of anti-corruption laws in light of, shall we say, unfortunate indiscretions.)
North Carolina comes in at 18th in the nation with a letter grade of C-.
All states seem to have one thing in common: “Across the board, state ethics, open records and disclosure laws lack one key feature: teeth. “
Some notes specific to NC:
Even if laws are passed, enforcement is weak. “Earlier this year, a North Carolina judge ruled that the Secretary of State could not impose a $30,000 fine on a lobbyist who failed to register. The judge cited ambiguous language in the law and decided the Secretary did not have the proper authority.”
There are loopholes to the law: “In 2006 North Carolina passed a ban on lobbyists buying meals for individual legislators. So instead, lobbyists bankroll receptions for groups of lawmakers.”
On conflicts of interest: “A North Carolina legislator sponsored and voted on a bill to loosen regulations on billboard construction, even though he co-owned five billboards in the state. When the ethics commission reviewed the case, it found no conflict; after all, the panel reasoned, the legislation would benefit all billboard owners in the state – not just the lawmaker who pushed for the bill.”
None of this is a surprise to regular Locker Room readers who rely on JLF’s transparency project to connect with all levels of state government transparency – state agencies, counties, cities and school systems. Add in many years of North Carolina style corruption as reported by CJ’s Don Carrington. Actually, it’s a bit surprising we got as high as a C-.
*A division of the Center for Public Integrity, a left leaning non-profit investigative news organization.