Believe it or not, in 2012, Michigan was ranked the seventh-worst state for corruption, earning an "F" in the annual State Integrity Investigation study. The 2012 study, was a collaborative project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.
To come up with its ranking system, the study used 330 indicators of state accountability broken down in 14 categories.
Michigan received "Fs" in 10 of them:
- executive accountability,
- judicial accountability,
- state civil service management,
- state pension fund management,
- state insurance commissions,
- political financing,
- legislative accountability,
- lobbying disclosure,
- ethics enforcement agencies and
Since the report was prepared, the Michigan Legislature has worked or is working on a number of these issues, FOIA reform, campaign finance and general oversight.
However, in being critical of the State of Michigan, Chris Andrews, the study's author, said, (in Michigan) "reform efforts are frequently launched, sometimes debated, always shelved. Meanwhile, special interests continue to make greater use of loopholes that allow them to influence the system without leaving fingerprints on the money spent doing it."
Michigan's score of a "58" was identical to what it earned from the same study in 2011, when it again ranked seventh.
New Jersey was the best-ranked state, followed by Connecticut, Washington, California and Nebraska. Georgia was ranked the most corrupt state, followed by South Dakota, Wyoming, Virginia and Maine. Michigan did receive an "A" in one category, internal auditing. The state also earned "B-'s" in state budget processes and procurement. In public access to information, Michigan scored a "D."
The study acknowledged there are positives. "Michigan's state government is not known for scandal. It gets many things right," Andrews writes. "It is not plagued by pay-to-play allegations in procurement, or by nepotism or cronyism in the civil service system. Its Freedom of Information Act usually, if not always, works to give journalists and others the information they request at a reasonable cost."
However, the study is overwhelmingly critical of Michigan, particularly over Michigan's campaign finance system and our lobbying laws. The legislature still has some time to improve our system and I know the State Bar of Michigan and Secretary of State are also working on some reform, but perhaps there is more work for a new legislature to tackle in 2014.