2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
New Jersey, Louisiana have strongest ethics and transparency laws; Vermont, South Dakota at the bottom
October 27, 2008 8:23 AM
CHICAGO—The Better Government Association (BGA) is proud to release the 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index. The Index ranks all fifty states on the strength of their laws relating to transparency, ethics, and accountability in government.
More information, including a full copy of the BGA-Alper Integrity Index is available for download here (PDF), and published below.
Originally published in 2002, this updated edition of the Index rates the performance of the states in five areas of law: open records, whistleblower protections, campaign finance, open meetings, and conflicts of interest.
"These laws are representative of a state’s responsiveness to its citizens, and its commitment to maintaining ethics in government," said BGA Executive Director Jay Stewart. "Just as the fifty states compete to see which one is the most business-friendly, they should also compete over their respective commitment to governmental integrity."
Results and Background
The Integrity Index relies on data compiled and reviewed through 2007 and early 2008. Most information was collected by the BGA, which also created the scoring system for four of the five laws. The BGA relied on the work of the Center for Public Integrity in regard to conflict of interest laws.
The top five states in this edition of the Integrity Index are:
1. New Jersey
2. Rhode Island
At the bottom of the rankings:
50. South Dakota
"The top five states should be congratulated for their performance," said Stewart. "However, all of the states have room for improvement. The top-ranked state, New Jersey, earned a combined score of just 65 percent. When the top state fails to break 70 percent, clearly all fifty have a long way to go in improving transparency and promoting ethics."
The BGA reviewed the relevant state laws and created a point-scale scoring system for each one. The better the law, the higher the point total and score in each category and overall. Scoring was generally based on limits to campaign contributions, the presence and depth of transparency laws, and strict penalties for violations of ethics rules.
The BGA-Alper Integrity Index is the only tool that attempts to measure all fifty states across a number of criteria, relating to good government. As with any analysis, it can’t measure every variable that impacts government integrity. Rather, laws are merely a reference point against which ethical standards are measured.
"We hope legislators and leaders in all fifty states will use the Integrity Index as a tool to spur reform and upgrade their laws in regard to transparency, accountability and limits," Stewart said.
The BGA-Alper Index was made possible in part by the generous support of Alper Services. For more information about Alper Services please visit their website at www.AlperServices.com.
If you appreciate the work of the BGA, please consider making a donation.