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2004-01-16

Mississippi’s #1: Corporate Crime Reporter Ranks Most Corrupt State Governments

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A new report examined the most corrupt state governments. The top 10? Mississippi, North Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska, Illinois, Montana, South Dakota, Kentucky, Florida and New York. [includes transcript]

As Connecticut Republican Gov. John Rowland face possible impeachment, we are going to take a look today at corruption within state governments.

Corporate Crime Reporter is releasing a report today titled "Public Corruption in the United States." The report ranks the 10 most corrupt states and the 10 least corrupt states.

The report is being released at a time when public corruption scandals are breaking out all over the country. The former Governor of Illinois, George Ryan, has been charged with taking money, gifts and loans in exchange for handing out state contracts to his donors. In Connecticut, three mayors and the state treasurer are in jail or heading to jail. And the Governor is under siege in a soap opera of a corruption scandal.

According to the report, the ten most corrupt states in the country are: Mississippi, North Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska, Illinois, Montana, South Dakota, Kentucky, Florida, and New York.

The ten least corrupt states in the country are: Nebraska, Oregon, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota Arizona, Arkansas, and Wisconsin.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re joined by "Corporate Crime Reporter" editor, Russell Mokhiber.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Good morning.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Good morning, Russell. Could you tell me what you found. What are the most corrupt states in the union and how did you arrive on it?

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: Well, actually the AP did a story this morning based on the report. The title is, "Image Problem, Louisiana, Not Number One in Corruption Anymore". And that’s what we found. You know, the states that have the reputation of being the most corrupt, New Jersey, Louisiana, Illinois, Rhode Island, that’s based on reputation, but we got a hold of a document from the Justice Department that has a statistical breakdown of public corruption convictions by state over the last ten years. So, no one has ever actually tried to rank the states to make a determination which is actually the most corrupt, reputation aside. And what we did was, we came up with a corruption rate by looking at the number of convictions over ten years for each state, per 100,000 population. And the most corrupt state in the union, according to our survey, is Mississippi, followed by North Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska and Illinois. New York comes in number ten—the tenth most corrupt.

The cleanest states in the union, the least corrupt, are Nebraska, Oregon, New Hampshire and Iowa, and Colorado. Those are the least corrupt five states. The other least corrupt fives from six through ten are Utah, Minnesota, Arizona, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. But two caveats on this; one is that these were convictions of public officials, state, federal and local in the states over ten years from 1993 to 2002, but not including 2003. The other thing is that—

JUAN GONZALEZ: It would depend in large measure also on how uncorrupt the prosecutors are who are conducting these cases.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: One of the things the people at the Justice Department tell us is you can have an absolutely corrupt state, state-wide, through and through corrupt, and if there’s not a US Attorney who wants to prosecute it, it’s not going to show up. For example, in Hartford the whole corruption scandal was exposed by Governor Roland’s opponent, Bill Curry, in the last election. But the press didn’t pick up on it. And it took a couple of young assistant US Attorneys after the US Attorney in Hartford recused himself to go after the governor. The other thing is in Connecticut you have tens of millions of dollars of graft and illegal contracts and so forth that never create an uproar. What created the uproar was that the governor had a hot tub and cathedral ceilings put in his cottage in Litchfield, Connecticut and told everyone that he actually went and bought the hot tub and he paid for it. He lied to the public. So, you can get away with millions of dollars in corruption, but if you say you went and bought the hot tub and put it in and lie about it, then you are going to be impeached.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Any reaction from the state of Mississippi as to the most corrupt state in the union?

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: No, but we’re waiting for Haley Barber and Trent Lott to weigh in. They’re not happy. The AP Reporter in Mississippi is doing a story. Bill Curry, who lost twice to Roland after trying to expose the corruption says now that he thinks Connecticut is the most corrupt state in the union, but our survey shows them coming in at 31. So, maybe they’re gaining ground. He calls Connecticut, "Louisiana with foliage". But the people in Louisiana are not at all happy. They admit they have a problem. The last three insurance commissioners in Louisiana have gone to jail. The agricultural commissioner is under indictment. They know they have a reputational problem, but they think they, too, have foliage, so they’re upset with Curry’s analysis. But seriously, one of the problems is, "Why did this happen in Connecticut?" Connecticut has a strong economy but a weak political economy. Politics in Connecticut are not very active. People pay attention to the economy, but not to the politics. One of the problems is we don’t discuss public corruption. We discuss it when it blows up, but not as a generic problem. If you type in corruption into like a Google news engine, what comes up are a lot of stories from overseas.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Okay, well Russell, on that note, we thank you for being with us, and we’ll keep —

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: The report is on www.corporatecrimereporter.com.

AMY GOODMAN: And you are holding a news conference today.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER: At 10:00 a.m.

AMY GOODMAN: At the National Press Club in Washington. Thanks for being with us. Russell Mokhiber of the "Corporate Crime Reporter."

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