This week Lobby Blog is turning its attention to our 50 states. The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity have recently released the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, a report that grades the states based on the laws and systems they have in place to deter corruption. The investigation found that “in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions, and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists while feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”
An example of such a loophole can be found in lobbying compliance changes that Lobby Blog has reported on in the past. When reviewing state regulatory changes for The ‘State’ Of Lobbying, Lobby Blog came across HJR 1009 in Arkansas, “which affects the lobbying arena in the state in several ways, including prohibiting lobbyists from “giving gifts to lawmakers under a new “no cup of coffee rule.” The State Integrity Investigation found that lobbyists have been able to circumvent this rule because ‘the prohibition does not apply to “food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited,” so lobbyists can buy meals as long as they invite an entire legislative committee.’
The overall results from the investigation found a decline in integrity among the states when compared to the last time the investigation was conducted in 2012. Demonstrating a negative trend in results, Alaska achieved the best grade in the nation, with just a C and only two others stated earned better than a D+. Moreover, the State Integrity Investigation found that “in two-thirds of all states, ethics agencies or committees routinely fail to initiate investigations or impose sanctions when necessary, often because they’re unable to do so without first receiving a complaint.”
The investigation measured hundreds of variables to compile transparency and accountability grades for all 50 states. According to the investigation, “The 2015 grades are based on 245 questions that ask about key indicators of transparency and accountability, looking not only at what the laws say, but also how well they’re enforced or implemented. The “indicators” are divided into 13 categories: public access to information, political financing, electoral oversight, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, state civil service management, procurement, internal auditing, lobbying disclosure, state pension fund management and ethics enforcement agencies.”
To keep up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations for lobbying in all 50 states turn look no further than Lobbyists.info’s State Lobbying Compliance Handbook. It is an action-oriented publication, designed to help you move into states quickly, effectively and without worrying that you’re violating lobbying regulations or using outdated registration or disclosure forms.