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Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in
ethics scandals. While sometimes there is talk of reform and other
overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive. However, some
states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious
event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of
dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change. This year
Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform
initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics
overhauls any state has in generations.
Illinois stands out as a state famous for corrupt politics. For
generations, patronage and pay-to-play politics have been raised to an
art form by state and local politicians. The state's last governor is in jail for racketeering. The current governor
is under federal investigation for allegedly giving jobs and no-bid
contracts to campaign supporters, more than 200 of whom have given the
governor checks for exactly $25,000. Advocates of good government such
as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have fought for years to bring the states' corrupt government officials to heel.
Over the past decade, elections for state high court seats have gone
from sleepy, mildly partisan affairs to major political battles with
huge campaign spending, millions in independent special interest
advertising, and misleading and negative attacks in the forefront.TV advertising is now apart of virtually all (91%) contested state supreme court elections, up from about one in five elections in 2000.And in 2006 business groups were the source of more than 90% of those ads.Business groups are also the source of almost half of all campaign contributions in these races.
In the wake of a bitter 2004 Governor's election and state Supreme Court races that took in more money from third-party groups than any other high court campaign in the country, Washington State's House took the first step toward public financing by passing HB 1551. Introduced by Senator Joe McDermott, HB 1551 allows cities, counties, and other jurisdictions to provide local candidates with government financing. The bill only allows local taxes to be tapped for the public campaign accounts and the public funds cannot be used for campaigns for state offices or school boards.
In the age of Google, citizens expect to be able to find core
information on the Internet about government operations, but as a major
new report being released today highlights, most states are failing on
When an impeccably pro-business outfit like Business Week declares victory for the business lobby in shutting the courtroom door to victims of corporate negligence, you know injured consumers and workers have been losing badly. But this week's cover story, How Business Trounced The Trial Lawyers, illustrates how the corporate right leveraged campaign contributions in the last decade to hijack state policy on civil justice.
At the core of many voters' frustrations with government is the sense
that, too often, politics is for sale. High-priced lobbyists offering
"gifts" to lawmakers swarm state legislatures; companies looking for
public contracts get too cozy with those handing out public money; and
corporate campaign contributions grease the wheels as public policy is
auctioned to the highest corporate bidder.