Queue the cries of anguish from the haters: the Better Government Association, a Chicago-based nonprofits that aims to expose corruption and inefficiency, announced today that Rhode Island was the state with the soundest anticorruption and transparency laws in the nation; according to its 2013 “Integrity Index“.
This will undoubtedly come as a shock to many who view Rhode Island through the over a century-old prism of “a state for sale, and cheap” created in 1905 by journalist Lincoln Steffens when documenting how the Republican Party stayed in power here. Or those like Bloomberg Businessweek, which used a corruption trial over a decade old as an example of our supposed corruption.
According to the Integrity Index, Rhode Island leads the country in its Open Meetings laws, while staying within the top 15 for all other categories which also included Freedom of Information (ranked 10th), Whistleblower Protection (in a four-way tie for 14th) and Conflict of Interest (ranked 15th). Rhode Island scored a 69.77% out of a 100 percent scale.
While it’s no cause for celebration (and is troubling for the nation), it continues to resist against the falsified perception that Rhode Island is somehow more corrupt than other states. Legally, corruption is the least tolerated in Rhode Island. This sort of information strikes a mortal blow against those that argue that corruption is more permissible under Rhode Island law when it’s pointed out that incidences of corruption in Rhode Island are middling to low when compared against other states.
Given that Rhode Island is joined by New Jersey and Illinois in the top three in the integrity, it’s hard to argue with the conclusion of the BGA’s president and CEO Andy Shaw, who suggests that because of their high-profile reputations for graft and corruption, all three states have passed tough laws to prevent it. This contrasts with states like Montana and Wyoming, which have weak anticorruption laws, likely because it hasn’t been in the public eye.
No one should suggest Common Cause RI pack its bags, though. Unless grading scales have significantly changed since I left school, a 69.77 is a D+, which is passing without much room for maneuver. There’s a lot of work left to get that into the 90s. So critics shouldn’t stop speaking up, they should just tone down the hyperbole unless they want to find themselves with their pants on fire.