How Corrupt is Your State? Check Their S.W.A.M.P. Rating
Thanks to the S.W.A.M.P. Index you can now know how well your state fights corruption compared to the rest of the country – North Dakota you got work to do.
The non-partisan group Coalition for Integrity released their 2018 S.W.A.M.P. index which gives states a rating based on their anti-corruption efforts on a scale of 0 to 100, 100 being a perfect score. At the bottom of the list is North Dakota which received a perfect zero, while the state of Washington earned a 78 making it the most progressive state in tackling corruption.
S.W.A.M.P. stands for States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public officials. The index uses eight metrics to rate states including whether there is an ethics agency in the state that can conduct meaningful independent investigations, whether an ethics agency can issue sanctions or fines, do legislatures have to disclose client names, does the state require reporting of contributors to independent spenders, and whether elected and appointed officials are restricted from receiving high-dollar lobbyist gifts.
“The Index is not based on perceptions, but is an objective analysis,” Laurie Sherman, Policy Advisor to the Coalition, said in a press release. She added they evaluated “current state laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency in the executive and legislative branches.”
North Dakota Fares Worst at Tackling Corruption, But There’s Hope
The worst performing state was North Dakota, which had the distinguished honor of being the only state to receive a zero. Second worst was Wyoming with a 12 and Idaho with a 16.
North Dakota has no independent ethics agency, though on the ballot in November 2018 is a measure to amend the North Dakota to Constitution to create an independent ethics agency. The powers of the agency are not defined in the measure. North Dakota also has no explicit prohibitions on gift-giving to appointed or elected officials.
The top-performing states were Washington State with a score of 78, Rhode Island with a score of 75, California with a score of 75, Kentucky with a score of 74, Kansas with a score of 72, and the District of Columbia with a score of 72.
Washington State has both an Executive Ethics Board and a Legislative Ethics Board and both have the power to independently investigate, hold public hearings and issue reprimands and fines. Elected and appointed officials are also prohibited from accepting more than $50 worth of gifts in a calendar year.
Can the S.W.A.M.P. Index Catalyze Change?
Shruti Shah, President and CEO of the Coalition, said he hoped the index would help voters to understand how corruption affected their states.
“State laws are the first line of defense against corruption and cover thousands of elected or appointed officials and state employees nationwide. Unfortunately, the S.W.A.M.P. Index highlights that there are many gaps and loopholes in state laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency issues. I want voters to understand the “state of ethics” in their state so they can better evaluate candidates, demand commitments to improve the legal framework and better judge proposed reforms,” Shah said in a press release.
The S.W.A.M.P. Index also published a list of recommended changes for states to adopt to improve their ratings and anti-corruption efforts. One of the recommended steps included ensuring all states had independent ethics agencies with hearings open to the public and the power to both initiate investigations and reprimand officials as needed. They also recommended ensuring ethics agency members be protected from removal from office without cause. Further suggestions included stricter gift laws and financial disclosures.