March 19, 2012
Virginia is at high risk for government corruption and political self-dealing, according to a report released Monday.
The State Integrity Investigation, which assessed government accountability and efforts to deter corruption, ranked Virginia 47th nationally and gave it an overall grade of "F." The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and the nonprofit group Global Integrity conducted the assessment over several months.
Virginia received "A'' grades for internal auditing and procurement. It received failing grades for the accountability of each of the three government branches, public access to information, political financing, lobbying disclosure, ethics enforcement and state budget processes.
Gov. Bob McDonnell offered a much different viewpoint.
"Virginia has a long bipartisan history of open, transparent, and ethical government," the governor's press secretary, Tucker Martin, said in an email. "That well-deserved reputation has led to the Commonwealth being regularly cited as one of the best managed states in the nation."
Martin said that upon learning about the report, the governor directed his secretaries of the commonwealth and administration to thoroughly review it.
"If there are areas in which Virginia can improve, the governor wants to know what they are and how we can best do so," he said.
The report noted that Virginia is one of nine states with no statewide ethics commission, one of four with no campaign finance limits, and one of just two where legislators select the judges before whom many of them practice law.
Because Virginia has one of the shortest legislative meeting schedules in the nation, lawmakers rely too heavily on lobbyists who sometimes even write legislation for them, according to the report. Lobbyists must file disclosure forms with the state, but the documents are vague and are not audited, the report says
The state also requires disclosure of campaign donations over $100 but has a poor record of monitoring compliance, according to the report.
Virginia also was criticized for exempting the State Corporation Commission and "constitutional officers," such as sheriffs, from the state Freedom of Information Act.
North Dakota, Michigan, South Carolina, Maine, Wyoming, South Dakota and Georgia also received "F'' grades. Five states received a "B." No state got an "A."