‘A bastion of cronyism’: Alabama ranks sixth in government corruption study


By Johnny Kampis | Watchdog.org

Considering that two of Alabama’s past six governors were convicted of felonies, is it any surprise the state ranks sixth in a study of government corruption in the United States?

Researchers at Indiana University and City University in Hong Kong examined more than 25,000 convictions for violations of federal anti-corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 to create a “corruption index.” They compared convictions to the number of state government employees to see which states had the highest ratio.

LOCKED UP: Former Democratic Gov. Don Siegleman is now serving six years in prison after being convicted in a bribery scheme.

Topping the list was Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

The least corrupt states in the study were Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

The study authors found that in addition to spending more overall than states with less corruption, the most corrupt states funneled more money to government services and activities more open to manipulation. For example, construction projects involve larger expenditures and a smaller number of contractors combined with less transparency, making them more vulnerable to kickbacks and extortion.

“The empirical results show that states with higher levels of corruption tend to spend more on items on which corrupt officials may levy larger bribes at the expense of others,” wrote authors Cheol Liu and John L. Mikesell.

On the flip side, the corrupt states tend to spend less on areas less vulnerable to corruption — yet important to a healthy society — such as hospitals and schools.

Those results don’t surprise Edward Mullins. The former journalism professor at the University of Alabama helped shepherd the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation in the Yellowhammer State in 2012.

Alabama got a C-minus on its corruption risk report card, receiving failing grades for a lack of public transparency of public documents and wide-open campaign finance laws.

“Although Alabama has a conscientious ethics director, the state as a whole remains a bastion of favoritism, cronyism and anti-governmentism,” Mullins told Alabama Watchdog. “We should model after Oregon and a few others, but our officials are too smug and self-satisfied to do that.”

Reach Johnny at johnny@missouriwatchdog.org.