In the wake of the latest allegation of political shenanigans in Chicago, USA Today published a state-by-state study of corruption to determine where it was most deeply rooted. It turns out that North Carolina was in the bottom third of all states, near the clean end of the scale.
I demand a recount. We’ve worked hard to get into the major leagues of corruption, and we shouldn’t let this clean ranking go unchallenged.
The problem with the USA Today study is its methodology. The newspaper simply took the total number of public corruption convictions won by federal prosecutors in each state from 1998 through 2007, and compared them against that state’s population. The result was a per-capita ranking. The lowest was Nebraska, with 0.7 convictions per 100,000 people. The highest, surprisingly, was North Dakota, with 8.3 convictions per 100,000 people — which proves that statistics lie. North Dakota had one-tenth the number of corrupt public officials than did Illinois in that time period, but is so sparsely populated that its ratio gets skewed. (It also might mean that North Dakotans ride herd on their politicians with more vigor than the rest of the country.)
North Carolina had 2 convictions per 100,000 people, a lower ratio than all but 16 other states. My problem is that we don’t get credit for the quality of our political crooks. North Carolina’s corruption is top-shelf stuff, and we’re not getting recognized for it.
For instance, what other state can claim that its speaker of the House went to prison for (a) accepting bribes, (b) bribing other people, and (c) conducting his transactions in public bathrooms? By my reckoning, one House speaker selling out the integrity of the state in toilet stalls is worth ten small-town councilmen who get caught fixing traffic tickets or trading votes on zoning matters in return for Caribbean vacations.
Don’t forget that in recent years we also had both a U.S. congressman and a state agriculture commissioner go to prison for corruption, as well as the state representative our House speaker bribed (in an IHOP restroom, for the record). We even had an idiot prosecutor who wrongfully pursued a high profile criminal case in order to get re-elected. Sure, there was no money involved in that scam, and he only served one day in jail, but we should get extra credit for creativity. Corruption isn’t just about the benjamins, you know.
C’mon, USA Today. North Carolina’s corruption ranking deserves a second look. Give us our due. We’ll make it worth your while … if you catch my drift.