California Is Named America’s Most Corrupt State Again for These 7 Reasons


California is both the most crowded and diverse state in the country and also the most corrupt. A new study from the Center for Public Integrity says that California got a terrible F grade for accountability and openness, ranking last out of all 50 states. The report named several things that make California’s corruption problem worse, including lax rules on campaign finance, a lack of oversight, and a culture of not being punished for crimes. Here are seven reasons why California was once again named the most crooked state in the United States:

1. Pay-to-play Politics

California lawmakers are known for asking for and taking bribes, kickbacks, and favors from special interests in exchange for good laws, contracts, or appointments. It was recently charged that Frank Hill, a former state senator, stole $20 million from the City of Industry for a solar power project that never happened. He is said to have helped a university official get contracts with the county in exchange for his son getting a graduate degree and a job as a professor. Hill was found guilty of corruption in a government sting operation thirty years ago.

2. Behested Payments

Interest groups give money to politicians’ favorite charities, often at their request. These gifts are called “behested payments.” Technically, these payments are not against the law, but they do bring up moral questions about how money should affect public policy. Some politicians use bribes to give money to family members, friends, or allies who work for or run nonprofits. For example, former Governor Jerry Brown said he was owed more than $30 million during his time in office, including $1.5 million to the nonprofit group run by his wife.

3. Municipal Malfeasance

In California, there are a lot of corruption issues in local governments. The southeastern quadrant of Los Angeles County has been called the “corridor of corruption” by state Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. A lot of city leaders have been charged with theft, fraud, extortion, laundering money, and other crimes. In one of the most well-known cases, eight former city officials were found guilty of stealing from the city’s coffers and giving themselves ridiculously high wages.

4. Lack Of Oversight

California’s system of checks and balances to stop and punish wrongdoing is not very strong. The Fair Political Practices Commission, which is the state’s ethics watchdog, doesn’t have a lot of power or money to police the rules and laws that cover lobbying, campaign finance, and conflicts of interest. The attorney general, the controller, and the state auditor all have limited roles and powers to look into and bring corruption cases to justice. Also, the state government has been hesitant to make real changes that would improve accountability and oversight.

5. Weak Campaign Finance Laws

Some of the laziest campaign finance rules in the country are in California. People, businesses, unions, and other groups can give as much money as they want to political parties and ballot measure committees. After that, these groups can give as much money as they want to candidates and committees, making it possible to avoid donation limits. Also, California does not require that the sources and amounts of “dark money” be made public. “Dark money” is political spending by nonprofits that do not say who gives them the money.

6. Culture Of Impunity

California has a culture of impunity that makes cheating possible and even encourages it. A lot of leaders and public officials see their jobs as things they own, not as short-term chances to help the people they represent. They try to make sense of the fact that they should get a piece of the good things that their choices bring about for special interests. They also use their fame, connections, and power to avoid being caught and facing consequences. Also, a lot of voters and people don’t care, are skeptical, or don’t know how bad corruption is in their state.

7. Bullet Train Boondoggle

Our state’s high-speed rail project, also called the “bullet train,” is one of the clearest signs of corruption. Voters agreed to the project in 2008, and it was meant to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by 2029. It would have cost $33 billion. But the project has been held up by delays, rising costs, bad management, and lawsuits. It will now likely cost $100 billion and take until 2033 to finish. Some people have said that the project is a waste of money and a scam that helps contractors, consultants, and officials but hurts taxpayers and the environment.

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