Monday, March 12, 2007

Take that, Cubs fans

The verdicts are in and Illinois is a corrupt state. Illinois, where the politicians' lunch time call is, "I'm hungry. Who's buying today?" And they are more corrupt than us.

Oddly enough, the governmental honesty of different states can be measured and compared -- sort of.

Larry J. Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia, is a kind of all-purpose political commentator. He told me, "The unholy trinity of politically corrupt states are New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana."
However,using a measurement based on the number of convictions, North Dakota is the most corrupt state. I always knew they were capable of selling us out to Canada some day, but to be number 1?
As it turns out, there is evidence that Illinois really is more corrupt than Minnesota or Wisconsin.

In response to the Watergate scandal, the U.S. Justice Department created a public integrity section in 1976. This unit reports to Congress every year on the number of indictments and convictions of public officials -- federal, state and local -- on corruption charges in each federal district court.

The tally includes only federal cases, not those brought by state and local prosecutors. But then, the feds bring an estimated 80 percent of all such cases.

The tally also does not indicate how much emphasis different U.S. attorneys place on chasing corruption cases. Maybe the federal prosecutors in Chicago are exceptionally zealous.

That said, you can add up the convictions for each state, compare the total to the state's population, and get a conviction rate per 100,000 people.

A group called the Corporate Crime Reporter developed such data for 1993-2002. I have updated the numbers for 1996-2005, using 2005 population estimates, the most recent figures available.

By this measure, North Dakota (North Dakota?) is the most corrupt state with a rate of .0848, reflecting a total of just 54 convictions but a population of only 637,000. Illinois ranks ninth in the nation with a rate of .0446 (with 569 convictions and 12.8 million people).

Louisiana is the second most corrupt; New Jersey the eleventh. Minnesota is the fifth least corrupt; Wisconsin the seventeenth.
Wisconsin is number 17 out of 50, and possibly moving up fast.