Massachusetts, the state that is home to Boston, Harvard University and the Kennedy family, has once again been ranked as the most corrupt state in the United States, according to a survey of local reporters by Transparency International.
How the survey was conducted
The survey, which was part of the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), asked 280 state political reporters to rate the level of corruption in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of their state governments.
The reporters were asked to distinguish between illegal corruption (such as bribery, embezzlement or extortion) and legal corruption (such as campaign contributions, endorsements or favors in exchange for benefits).
The survey results were then aggregated across the branches and for both types of corruption, and each state was given a score from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The lower the score, the more corrupt the state is perceived to be.
How Massachusetts scored
Massachusetts scored a dismal 19 out of 100, the lowest among all 50 states. This means that the reporters perceived Massachusetts to have a very high level of both illegal and legal corruption in all three branches of its government. The state scored especially low on the executive branch, with a score of 12, indicating that the reporters believed that the governor and other top officials were frequently involved in corrupt practices.
Massachusetts has been at the bottom of the CPI ranking since 2018, when it scored 21. The state’s score has been declining steadily since 2012, when it scored 35.
Why Massachusetts is so corrupt
There are many possible reasons why Massachusetts is seen as the most corrupt state in the country. Some of them are:
1.) The state has a long history of political scandals, involving both Democrats and Republicans, such as the Boston City Hall bribery case, the Probation Department patronage scheme, the Big Dig cost overruns and the House Speaker convictions.
2.) The state has a weak system of checks and balances, with a dominant Democratic Party that controls both the legislature and the executive, and a judiciary that is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. This creates a lack of accountability and oversight, and allows for political influence and favoritism.
3.) The state has a low level of transparency and public participation, with a restrictive public records law, a weak campaign finance law, a lack of whistleblower protection and a low voter turnout. This makes it harder for the public and the media to access information and monitor the actions of the government.
How Massachusetts can improve
Massachusetts can take several steps to improve its corruption perception and performance, such as:
1.) Strengthening its anti-corruption laws and enforcement, by increasing the penalties for corruption offenses, expanding the jurisdiction and resources of the State Ethics Commission and the Attorney General, and creating an independent inspector general.
2.) Enhancing its transparency and accountability, by reforming its public records law, improving its campaign finance disclosure, protecting whistleblowers and encouraging civic engagement.
3.) Promoting a culture of integrity and ethics, by educating public officials and employees about the rules and values of public service, fostering a diverse and inclusive representation in government, and engaging with civil society and the media to raise awareness and demand change.
Massachusetts has a serious problem of corruption that undermines its democracy, economy and society. The state needs to take urgent action to address this issue and restore public trust and confidence in its government. By doing so, Massachusetts can also set an example for other states and the nation as a whole.