WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Virginia Fails In Corruption Risk Report, Maryland Ranks Low

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Virginia failed most tests and earned an 'F' overall on a state integrity report card released this week.
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Virginia failed most tests and earned an 'F' overall on a state integrity report card released this week.

A new investigative report finds Maryland and Virginia have high risks of public corruption. The State Integrity Investigation is out today, and both Virginia and Maryland fared poorly -- especially the commonwealth, which earned a failing grade.

With no limit on how much donors can give to candidates, no statewide ethics commission, and an oversight structure filled with loopholes wider than the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia earned an F in the just-released State Integrity Investigation report card. The reviews provide an in-depth report on each state, based on 300 indicators of accountability, transparency, and corruption risk. 

Virginia ranked 47th out of 50 states and earned an 'F' in 9 of the 14 categories. It's one of only four states that have no limits on campaign contributions. As a result, wealthy individual donors can have an outsized influence during election season. The commonwealth also has the dubious distinction of being one of the few states without an ethics commission. 

The State Integrity Investigation also found that the ethics and oversight laws that are on the books are lacking. For example, the report found that Virginia's freedom of information act does not apply to the state corporation commission, which regulates utilities, businesses, banks and other institutions.

Also exempt from FOIA requests: many law enforcement agencies in Virginia, as WAMU 88.5's Michael Pope has extensively chronicled in Northern Virginia.

Meanwhile, Maryland fairs only slightly better in the report, eking out a 'D-' in the State Integrity Investigation.

Maryland earned failing grades in a number of categories, including public access to information, executive accountability, and legislative accountability.

The report highlights Maryland's revolving door between legislators and lobbyists, and the state's poor transparency when it comes to government information. For example, to see a copy of a politician's financial disclosure statement, you have to travel to the offices of the state's ethics commission and request it person -- even though these forms have been filed electronically for years.

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