NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

State Legislators Fare Poorly On Disclosure Laws

February 15, 1999

Half the states received failing grades in a survey of ethics law governing members of state legislatures. These states allowed lawmakers to hide from public view significant information about their private financial interests and how they might personally benefit from laws they pass, reports the Center for Public Integrity.

  • Twenty-five states received failing grades in the study, 11 were described as "barely passing," with only 14 deemed "satisfactory" to "excellent".
  • Idaho, Michigan and Vermont were ranked at the bottom of the list because lawmakers there are not required to file any financial disclosure reports.
  • In Utah, lawmakers themselves decide whether they have potential conflicts which should be disclosed -- with laws in the other 21 failing states not requiring legislators to tell the public basic information about their finances which could signal conflicts of interest.
  • Large states whose laws were rated satisfactory to excellent included California, Connecticut, New York and Texas.

Other large states which failed the test include Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

At the same time, experts caution that disclosure is only one of a number of factors by which to judge a state's ethical climate. Although Vermont tied for last place in disclosure rankings, for example, it has a reputation for being "squeaky clean."

Source: Jim Drinkard, "Study: States Let Legislators Hide Personal Gains," USA Today, February 15, 1999.


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