Alaska tops corruption rankings in policy journal

Alaska tops state rankings for public corruption in research published in the latest issue of a peer-reviewed journal.

Least Corrupt States by Population

  1. Oregon
  2. Washington
  3. Minnesota
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Utah

Most Corrupt States by Population

  1. Alaska
  2. Mississippi
  3. Louisiana
  4. North Dakota
  5. South Dakota

Least Corrupt States by Number of Public Employees

  1. Oregon
  2. Washington
  3. Minnesota
  4. Nebraska
  5. Iowa

Most Corrupt States by Number of Public Employees

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. Tennessee
  4. Illinois
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Alabama
  7. Alaska

Source: The Impact of Public Officials’ Corruption on the Size and Allocation of U.S. State Spending, Public Administration Review

Alaska was No. 1 for corruption-related convictions of federal, state and local public employees and elected officials, averaged over the state’s population. When averaged over the number of public employees per state, Alaska ranked seventh. Convictions were counted from 1976 to 2008, based on data from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The rankings were just one item the researchers fed into their statistical analyses testing for connections between corruption and state spending.

Four theories were tested:

  1. The more corruption there is, the bigger the budget;
  2. Corruption skews spending toward capital spending, construction and highways;
  3. Corruption skews spending toward salaries, wages and debt financing; and
  4. Corruption skews state spending away from social sectors, such as education, welfare and health.

Their analyses backed all four theories. The researchers also presented a statistical model that suggests if Alaska had merely “average” corruption, the state could save more than $900 million a year.

The researchers warn that policymakers should be wary of public money used “for private gains of the few,” though spending on capital, construction, highways and debt is not problematic in itself.

Cheol Liu of the University of Hong Kong and John L. Mikesell of Indiana University published their paper, The Impact of Public Officials’ Corruption on the Size and Allocation of U.S. State Spending, in Public Administration Review.