Monday, March 19, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Evil doers looking for public officials to corrupt should put Nevada on their list of hunting grounds.
The Silver State emerged as the ninth most corruptible state in the nation, according to an exhaustive $1.5 million yearlong investigation by a partnership of public integrity organizations.
Investigators rated states on 15 indicators of public accountability and transparency in an effort to gauge the risk of corruption in the three branches of state government.
Nevada failed on nearly every indicator, including ethics enforcement, lobbying transparency, internal auditing and pension fund management.
Nevada’s overall grade: a dismal D-minus.
“The state’s legislative framework factors heavily in that poor grade,” wrote Joan Whitely, who investigated Nevada for the study. “Since part-time lawmakers must earn a living through other jobs, all face potential conflicts when proposed laws touch their sources of income.
“Other gaps in ethics protection — from flimsy lobbying reporting requirements to a huge loophole in the state’s open meeting law to unlimited gifts allowed for public officials — further erode accountability.”
Perhaps Nevada can take heart in the fact that very few states scored well. The “least corruptible” state — perhaps shockingly — was New Jersey, which scored a B-plus.
“No state earned an A,” said Nathaniel Heller, managing director of Global Integrity. “To be at the top of this list is like winning a beauty pageant where not everybody is particularly pretty.”
Heller and other investigators noted that many states, including Nevada, had strong laws that would prevent corruption if they were properly enforced. Instead, they found enforcement was either poorly funded or susceptible to political interference.
“These laws are on the books, but there’s a real lack of being able to enforce them effectively,” said Kate Wilson of the Center for Public Integrity. “There is an incredible implementation gap across the board.”