Baby Steps Toward Ethics Reform in South Carolina

Legislators in South Carolina have taken initial steps toward what could be the first major overhaul of the state’s ethics rules in twenty years. As the Free Times reported this morning, government watchdog groups rattled off their wish lists at a hearing held last week by a panel of state House Democrats. South Carolina earned an overall grade of F for corruption risk from the State Integrity Investigation earlier this year, and fallout from that report — along with a series of recent ethics scandals — appears to have built political consensus on the need for reforms, said John Crangle of South Carolina Common Cause.

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PUBLIC BETRAYAL: Massachusetts anti-corruption gaps fueled public servant misconduct

State Integrity News from SII partner New England Center for Investigative Reporting:

Deep flaws in Massachusetts laws constructed to keep government honest have sustained a recurring parade of criminal and ethical misconduct charges involving public servants in the past five years, a study by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting shows.

Massachusetts earned a “C” grade earlier this year in a national State Integrity scorecard released by the Center for Public Integrity.    Among its lowest scores were an “F” for the transparency of the state budget process and public access to information, a “D+” for legislative accountability and a “C-” for the effectiveness of the state Ethics Commission.  Judicial accountability earned a “C+ in Massachusetts.

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Kansas Investigation Uncovers Flaws In Sunshine Law

State Integrity news for Kansas from SII partner KCUR:

A Kansas district attorney concludes that a series of meetings of key members of the legislature called by Governor Sam Brownback broke the state's open meetings law.  But there will be no charges and no fines and the investigation left a number of questions about the unannounced meetings and the open records law itself.

Read and hear more from KCUR - Kansas City.

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Tiny Fine for Big Campaign Finance Violators

State Integrity news from SII partner Colorado Public Radio:

It’s a pretty sweet deal. Three men facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines for campaign finance violations wound up getting slapped with the equivalent of a parking ticket. But how? Colorado Public Radio takes us through one tale of campaign finance waivers.

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Judicial complaints rarely lead to punishment

State Integrity news for Texas from SII partner KERA:

Complaints about Texas judges are usually handled in secret and rarely lead to punishment. That’s what state lawmakers heard when they met to review the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, the agency that disciplines judges.

Citizens testified that the agency’s secrecy makes it impossible to know whether Texas’s 3,910 judges are being held accountable. Austin attorney Bennie Ray told lawmakers that even when judges are punished it’s a slap on the wrist in a closed meeting.

“There’s no way for the public or a voter to easily track a judges complain history. Judges could have a number of informal complaints and nobody would know about them,” Ray testified.

Read and hear more from KERA - Dallas.

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Most Campaign Money Remains Hidden In New Hampshire

State integrity news from SII partner New Hampshire Public Radio:

With the 2012 primary less than three weeks away, candidates for state office in New Hampshire have until midnight Wednesday to file their first campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State's office.

But if the past is any guide, the disclosures will offer a rather limited view of how political campaigns are paid for in New Hampshire. Critics say flaws in the state election statutes make it easy for corporations and other wealthy donors to exceed dollar limits on individual contributions, putting the integrity of the state's political process at risk.

Read and hear more from New Hampshire Public Radio.

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Candidate Filings Only Part of Election Money Picture in New Hampshire

State Integrity news from SII partner New Hampshire Public Radio:

The candidates for governor in New Hampshire face a deadline this week for submitting campaign finance reports to the state. So far, the candidates have raised a total of mroe than two million dollars.

That's what we know. But there’s a lot we don’t know about campaign money. Many election observers say a lot of campaign money won’t ever show up in candidate reports.

Hear more from New Hampshire Public Radio.

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Most N.H. Candidates Don't File Finance Reports Electronically

State Integrity news from SII partner New Hampshire Public Radio:

New Hampshire has required candidates and political committees to file periodic reports with the Secretary of State's offices for years. But in 2006, to make the process easier and more transparent, elections officials began allowing campaigns to submit their receipt and expenditure reports via the Internet.

The problem is, state election law does not require the campaigns to use the electronic filing system, so hardly any of them do.

Read more from New Hampshire Public Radio.

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Texas Judges: Out Of Order

State Integrity news for Texas from SII partner KERA:

The State Integrity Investigation on government corruption gives Texas an average grade of C for holding judges accountable. But some citizens and lawmakers who’ve tested the system say that grade is far too high.

As part of a series of reports -- "Texas Judges: “Out of Order” -- KERA found that the public can access little information about misconduct complaints against judges. The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, the agency that investigates and disciplines judges, is not subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

And even when citizens file complaints about a judge misbehaving in the courtroom, the complaints sometimes cannot be investigated because no record exists of the proceedings in many Texas courts.

Read and hear more from KERA - Dallas.

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JobsOhio: Economic boom or constitutional bust?

State Integrity news for Ohio from SII partner WVXU:

In existence for only a year and a half, JobsOhio is a public-private partnership that claims to have helped create more than 31,000 new jobs in the Buckeye State.

But critics characterize the agency as an unaccountable group with access to taxpayer dollars. An unlikely alliance of liberals and conservatives is involved in a lawsuit that questions whether state officials violated the constitution when they created JobsOhio.

Read and hear more from WVXU - Cincinnati.




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