On March 20 the Center for Public Integrity published a project that had been more than a year in the works. Its ambitious goal: to evaluate each of the 50 states on 13 different measures of integrity. Campaign finance law, judicial accountability and lobbying disclosure were some of the important topics tackled.
Also among the 13: the quality of each state’s internal auditing.
Internal auditing “tends to be overlooked, obscure and isolated. But these are really key agencies of accountability,” said Nathaniel Heller, executive director of Global Integrity, an affiliate of the Center that helped design the study.
The Center describes itself as a non-partisan nonprofit that concentrates on ethics and public service, and though critics sometimes describe it as left-leaning, it has a record of critical review of politicians and policies of both parties.
Some of this study’s findings have come in for criticism, including its ranking New Jersey best across all 13 categories. As Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Weil pointed, out, New Jersey is the only state ever sued for fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Lying to municipal-bond investors about the underfunded condition of its two largest pension plans was the central issue. This study gave its state pension fund management an “A”.
Because the study evaluates the systems in place today, past transgressions like those are not factored in.