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Home » DR News » DR on the Record » DR News archives » December 16, 2008

December 16, 2008 - Who's Most Corrupt?

Who's Most Corrupt?

The arrest and pending implosion of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich prompted The New York Times to ask which state has the most corrupt government. Armed with data from 1998-2007, they used three measures: the number of public officials convicted of corruption; the per capita rate of convictions; and the opinion of news reporters.

Where did PA rank?

  • Number of convicted officials: 4th
  • Convicted officials per capita: 17th
  • Reporter judgment: 13th

There's just one problem with the Times' methodology. It doesn't account for lousy laws.

Consider two states, one where public officials are convicted of taking illegal cash from lobbyists, and one (like PA from 2002-2007) where there is no law to control taking cash from lobbyists. Which is more corrupt?

This is why, on matters of public integrity, Democracy Rising PA does not settle for rules "reforms" and why we stay focused on the best laws in America. If we want to end corruption, or even minimize it, we need laws, and we need the best laws.

Click here for the full Times story.


  • Is 2009 the year when lawmakers will pass laws to move us closer to the bottom of the corruption list?
  • Or will the Bonus Scandal, the Fumo Scandal and the Joyce Scandal (so far) move us up the ladder?

* With apologies to 7-Up.

They have to take it. They ought to give it back. It's the 2.8% COLA that lawmakers, judges, row officers and high-ranking executive branch officials received automatically on December 1.

They have no choice about taking it. By law, it shows up automatically in their pay, at least until lawmakers repeal the automatic COLA. See the December 1 edition of DR News.

But they have choices once it's in their hands. Here are the choices and our unofficial tally of the 252 lawmakers (there is one vacancy) as culled from newspaper accounts across the state:

The "Cut Spending" Choice 19.0%. The only way a public official can shrink the looming budget deficit is to give the money back to the Treasury (and taxpayers) from whence it came.

The "Tax Deduction" Choice 5.2%. These public officials don't give the money back; they donate it to a charity. This choice puts a double-whammy on the taxpayer. First, it doesn't put money back in the Treasury. Then it takes even more money out by lowering the taxes the public official pays.

The "Cold, Dead Hands" Choice - <1%. Keep it.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Choice 75.0%. Although several lawmakers have issued news releases about their decision, we have not seen what most lawmakers plan to do with the money.

A familiar refrain of lawmakers who are giving the money to their favorite charities appears in this explanation by Rep. David Argall, R-Berks. "Had I given the money back to the government, who knows where Ed Rendell would have spent it?"

The answer, of course, is wherever the legislature appropriates it. The governor cannot spend money that the legislature hasn't authorized.

Or perhaps it doesn't get spent at all. Perhaps it goes to reduce the deficit. But only if it goes back to the Treasury.


In the last edition of DR News, we reported the promised proposal to repeal the COLA. Now there are other signs of integrity advocacy among lawmakers.

Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester, has promised to re-introduce legislation that would ban the practice known as "pay to play" in which campaign donors just happen to get lucrative government contracts. The proposal would deny government contracts to contributors of more than $2,500.

In the 2007-08 session, Schroder's bill only applied to the executive branch. He now is working to expand the legislation to include all three branches. Click here for a story in the Pottstown Mercury.

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