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Politics & Government

PA Grade For Government Integrity Falls in Middle of the Pack

Pennsylvania's state government operations received a "C-" in integrity, but the state still ranked 19th in the nation.

The Center for Public Integrity sent a journalist to each state capitol to do the research, using 330 questions in 14 categories to determine how transparent a state is in its justice department, campaign finance disclosures, budgeting process and most importantly the condition of the organizations in the state which monitor ethics issues. Pennsylvania does have an Ethics Commission, however its funding has been cut in recent years.

Center spokesman Randy Barrett said the state's law-breaking politicians in recent years have actually helped toughen Pennsylvania's policies.

"We found that states that have had a history of corruption tended to have stronger systems in place to guard against future corruption and in Pennsylvania's case that's what you're seeing," Barrett said.

Pennsylvania has dealt with criminal charges within its own legislature including convictions of 27 people with ties to the legislature since 2008. Many charges are based upon elected leaders using public resources including legislative staff to work on political campaigns while on state time.

While Barrett said the state's "C-" grade is not considered good, the state did well in comparison to many others, topping states like Delaware, Wisconsin, Indiana and Georgia, which finished last. No state received an "A" but New Jersey was considered most transparent and accountable, which Barrett attributed to the adoption of more stringent policies following past corruption.

Barrett said Pennsylvania's grade still leaves plenty of room to do better.

"Pennsylvania needs to improve in the area of political financing. It would need stronger campaign finance controls and limits," Barrett said. "Judicial accountability as well, the state ranked low. It would have to improve the citizen input into the judicial process."