OLYMPIA – Washington is among the least "corruptible" states in the nation, while Idaho placed 40th out of 50 in a scorecard released Monday.
Two watchdog organizations, the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity joined with Public Radio International and journalists around the country to score the states on some 330 questions involving a wide array of government activities.
The scores were then tallied, and letter grades assigned. No state got an A. . .
"Washington scores pretty good, although implementation is a bit of a problem," said Marko Tomicic, of Global Integrity, which uses similar systems to rate national governments around the world.
It was among five states receiving Bs, ranked third overall with a B-, with top grades for the way it handles political redistricting, internal audits of state government and disclosure of lobbyists’ pay and spending.
"It’s not surprising you would see Washington among the leaders," Jason Mercier , of the Washington Policy Center, said. "Structurally, we’re pretty well set up."
The state was initially set up by progressives who mistrusted big government, big business and big unions. Citizens passed laws requiring open records and campaign financing restrictions. Budgets are placed on the Internet, on searchable websites. Legislative hearings and many other state government hearings are televised on TVW.
Where it tended to lose points was in the application of laws, questioning whether some agencies have the staff and budget to do the required jobs. "No one is perfect," Tomicic said of the states. "They all could do significantly better."
Idaho also got As for its redistricting and internal audit processes. But it received Fs for a lack of laws that allow residents to hold its executive and legislative officials accountable, determine whether its civil service and pension fund are well managed, and having no agency assigned to monitor or enforce ethics laws. In the end, the state received a D-. Bad, but better than the eight states that failed.
Spokesman-Review Boise Bureau Chief Betsy Z. Russell, who worked with the project for the Idaho scorecard, said the state does not have a history of corruption, and "brightly colored threads of accountability and transparency run throughout all three branches of state government." But most experts say that’s due to the efforts of key individuals, not institutional controls.
"Indeed, Idaho’s lack of financial disclosure and ‘revolving door’ laws levers its stage government vulnerable. Even though most public officials here may be honest, hard-working and dedicated to doing the right thing, without disclosure requirements, there’s no way to know for sure," Russell said.
Many organizations grade some aspect of government accountability or transparency. Mercier said, however, this grading system was the most extensive he’s seen. "The questionnaire took me a week to fill out."