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And the Winner (Loser?) Is ... Illinois

By Ben Pershing

The balloting is now closed in Capitol Briefing's poll of which state --- Illinois, Louisiana or New Jersey -- is the most corrupt, and Illinois won by a wide margin. Of the 1,699 votes cast (1,700 would have been too round a number and might have invited suspicion), 47 percent were for Illinois, 32 percent for Louisiana and a disappointing 12 percent for New Jersey. Where's the pride, Garden Staters?

As commenter rperry1 put it: "Sorry La. and N.J., no one can hold a candle to the Land of Lincoln when [it] comes to political graft and corruption."

Capitol Briefing suspects that Illinois may have been helped (hurt?) by the fact that the Rod Blagojevich scandal is so fresh in everyone's mind. The same dynamic may have been at work over at The Fix, where 55 percent of readers dubbed L'Affaire Blagojevich "the biggest scandal in modern political history." Conduct both polls again in a year, and the results might be different.

Anyway, our poll on most the corrupt state also gave readers the chance to order up states not on the scandal menu. Eight percent of respondents chose "other," and some of them listed their choices in the comments section, making the case that political corruption is the true national pastime.

The small states (population-wise) did well in the write-in voting, with Alaska getting five votes and Rhode Island three.

"With this years election the light shone brightly on all the corruption in Alaska," points out commenter sonnysgone, and it's hard to argue with that. You've got Ted Stevens' conviction, the ongoing federal investigation of Rep. Don Young and the rest of the blossoming VECO scandal, plus the Sarah Palin Troopergate investigations. And that's just this year.

But koolkat_1960 begs to differ: "On a per capita (and certainly per square mile) basis, Rhode Island is the undisputed champ!" Commenter steveboyington agrees, noting that former Providence mayor "Buddy Cianci can battle it out with any of the other slimeballs/wiseguys any day."

Five states earned two votes apiece: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, California (including one specifically for "Los Angeles") and Maryland (including one for "Prince George's County"). Nine more states and one territory each earned a single vote: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Puerto Rico and West Virginia.

One reader from Down Under (appropriate nickname!) even weighed in with his/her own ranking of the most corrupt Australian states, with New South Wales first, and Tasmania and Western Australia tied for second. "We cannot allow USA hegemony on this as well can we?" wandererfromoz asks.

But in the end it's hard to beat Illinois and Louisiana. As commenter foundrysmith points out, Corporate Crime Reporter ranks Louisiana a solid No.1. As for Illinois, we'll end with a comment -- complete with a great anecdote -- by gilbertk1:

"I grew up in Chicago under the original Mayor [Daley] ... and remember that, if you voted 'the right way,' you received a 55 oil gallon drum for your trash (the only thing they'd allow for trash pickup). And you needed to vote 'the right way' a second time to get a lid. If someone in your household didn't, the lid didn't come. And, if you voted the wrong way, you could lose the lid. And without the lid, the drum would rust out. Even as a kid, I saw the inconsistency between that and the notion of a secret ballot I heard about in Civics class. Government by presents and brick bats."

By Ben Pershing  |  December 16, 2008; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules  
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This gets back to an old remedy (that I swear I invented in the mid 70's).

Make the holding of public office in (insert favorite state here) a crime: misdemeanors at the township level and felonies for the highest offices.

All office holders would serve to the ends of their terms, no matter what the allegations, then proceed immediately to prison. This to be followed by a lucrative post-incarceration lobbying career.

Posted by: wgmadden | December 16, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

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$30 billion ends world hunger
$550 billion is the US Defense budget

This organization has the ability, resources, and policy-makers to suppress the threat of global poverty by enacting legislation here in the US, which is tied to the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. Please support organizations such as The Borgen Project so that we may rid the world of poverty.

Posted by: atsegga | December 16, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

The stench of corruption hangs low over the Obama transition as Richardson is pulled into the vortex. Soon trillions of federal dollars will be splooged into the nimble old hands of these appointed kleptocrats.

Posted by: georgejones5 | December 16, 2008 7:47 PM | Report abuse

What can they do to stop coruption in states like Illinois,Louisiana and New Jersey? I reside in North Carolina and this is a state with the most murders and homisides Just this past monday there is afriendly center and an old navy store and
when Brinks armered car was picking up sacks of money there was a blackman waiting for them and shot the Brinks guard in the head and got away in an waiting car that's a very bad thing thanks for video camaras the y have the man on the picture.

Posted by: hbrinkhuis | December 17, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

And now a product of Illinois corruption will be running the White House.

But I wonder if other states are even more corrupt, but are simply better at keeping a lid on it.

F. Lee Bailey once said that the judiciary in Pennsylvania is by far the most corrupt in the United States. And that was the opinion of a lawyer who has litigated in all fifty states, so his knowledge is firsthand, not hearsay.

Posted by: tncdel | December 17, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Florida can play ball and hold its own with any of these so-called Old School States with regard to corruption.

Florida had a Bush as a governor for eight years.

Posted by: Patriot3 | December 17, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

The Blago story reminds us that some who aspire to high government office are in it for the money. Since the compensation of public servants is substantially less than in private industry, the way they get rich is by abuse of power. In Illinois at least, they are starting to get caught. Thus the perception of most corrupt state.

Posted by: crossroadsteam | December 21, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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