Georgia Ranks Dead Last in State Integrity Investigation

State received an "F" grade in 9 of 14 categories.

Georgia government has the highest corruption risk of any state in the union, according to the State Integrity Investigation, a project ranking state government transparency and ethics.

The State Integrity Investigation ranked states in 14 categories, including campaign finance, ethics laws and lobbying regulations, and assigned letter grades in each category. Georgia received an "F" in 9 of the 14 categories, as well as a "D" or "D-" grade in state budget processes, procurement and executive accountability, and a "C-" in judicial accountability. The highest grade Georgia received was a "B" in internal auditing.

According to the SII report, Georgia law books are filled with statutes "written to curtail undue influence on political activity and public policy," but the system is so full of loopholes that the laws are all but worthless -- and often go unenforced in any case.

"Some 658 state workers accepted sports tickets, speaking fees, fancy meals and other gratuities over a two-year span," the report stated. "It’s been 12 years since the state last fined a vendor for failing to disclose such gifts."

Supposedly regulated industries are effectively funding the campaigns of would-be regulators, the report found:

"Collectively, executives of insurance companies, public utilities and other regulated entities have become the largest single source of campaign money for regulators running for re-election. Utility officials raise money and work to help re-elect incumbents; a lobbyist for the cable TV industry managed one incumbent’s campaign in 2008."

While Georgia has agencies charged with oversight and transparency, those agencies have been largely hobbled by budget cuts and political intrigue. The Office of the Inspector General is tasked with investigating government wrongdoing, but has no enforcement capability; the office is empowered only to recommend action against wrongdoers, according to the SII report.

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission was forced by budget cuts to eliminate nearly all its investigative positions and focus on clerical work, and apparently political firings have hampered its ability to enforce transparency and finance regulations.

"Ultimately, the agency’s top two staffers were forced out in June 2011 just as they were seeking subpoenas for campaign and personal records of newly elected Gov. Nathan Deal; commission members said the timing was coincidental," the SII report stated.

Georgia's open records law also came under fire in the report. SII claimed the law was inconsistently enforced, and compliance is monitored only through an informal mediation process in the Attorney General's Office. The law also exempts the legislative and judicial branches of state government, effectively enabling them to refuse production of records.

Got something to say about this story? Tell us in the comments.

Jeffrey Bingham March 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I have absolutely NO doubt each word of this story is true and the tip of an iceberg so huge and corrupt it would sickening us all. Anyone thinking the Gwinnett County Justice system is just in any way need only to become involved in a lawsuit to see that the plain and simple rules in Gwinnett are: The person with the most money to continue fighting and paying off attorneys and Judges wins. It's a mockery of justice - it's all about the money ONLY. Very sad and corrupt indeed.


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