The Center for Public Integrity, with two other organizations, did the first data-driven assessment of transparency, accountability. and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states. No one earned an A grade. Only five states got a B: New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California, and Nebraska. Nineen states got C’s, 18, D’s, and 8 got Fs: Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia.
State ethics, open records, and disclosure laws lack one key feature: teeth. “It's a terrible problem,” said Tim Potts of the nonprofit advocacy group Democracy Rising PA, which works to inspire citizen trust in government. “A good law isn't worth anything if it's not enforced.” New Jersey emerges at the top of the pack, a seemingly stunning ranking for a state with a reputation for dirty politics. Sparsely-populated Western or Plains states like Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas do poorly. There, libertarianism roots, a small-town, neighborly approach to government, and the belief that “everybody knows everybody” has overridden any perceived need for strong protections in law.