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Corruption: It's All Part Of The Game?

by David Gura
Dec 10, 2008

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After news yesterday that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been charged with corruption, Eamon Javers and Fred Barbash, a writer for, and an editor of, the Politico, respectively, wrote a great article: "Why is Illinois so corrupt?"

Our Illinois readers, up in arms about that title, should relax. The piece has a broader scope than the headline would lead you to believe. Javers and Barbash, with the help of Michael Johnston, a professor of political science at Colgate University — and the author of Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy, explain what makes certain states and politicians corrupt — and others less so.

(Looking at pictures of Blagojevich and former Ohio Rep. James Traficant, I wonder if it has something to do with hair... Edward McClelland, of Salon, provides coif commentary here.)

I digress! Back to that Politico piece...

What gives? Colgate's Johnston says that there's more to it than just regional character. He's been studying political corruption since the 1970s, and has concluded that there are several key ingredients for political corruption. He says those include multiple political cultures competing for dominance, such as rural versus urban voters, tightly balanced party competition, and an elite political culture in which politicians expect to see corruption in their daily lives.

The highlight of the piece, for me, was the "corruption index," based on this piece from the Corporate Crime Reporter. The most-corrupt states, ranked. At the top of the list: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky. (Illinois is No. 6.) At the bottom: Minnesota, Iowa, and Oregon.

Is your state corrupt? Why?

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