Who Are You Calling Corrupt?

The December 9 arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich—who is accused, among other misdeeds, of trying to sell the U.S Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama–provoked speculation that Illinois might be the most corrupt state in the nation.

Not so, reports USA Today. Measured by the number of federal corruption convictions per 100,000 residents, Illinois isn’t close to having the worst public officials.

That, uhm, honor belongs to–North Dakota.

North Dakota?

Yep. From 1998 to 2007, this tiny state, which has only 639,715 people, logged 53 federal convictions of public officials charged with misconduct. That’s a rate of 8.3 convictions per 100,000 residents.

My state, Kentucky, ranks 6th in the country. We had 242 convictions. Kentucky’s population is 4,241,474.

That gives Kentucky a rate-per-100,000 of 5.7–significantly ahead of Tony Soprano’s New Jersey, which earned a 4.8, still high enough to place the Garden State in the corruption top 10, or bottom 10, depending on how you look at it.

Interestingly, or sadly, Kentucky is one of a half-dozen Bible Belt states more corrupt than Illinois. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia all made the list. (Florida’s there, too, but I’m not sure whether it’s considered part of the Bible Belt.)

Which is another piece of evidence to buttress my long-held theory: we Bible Belters–and Bible thumpers–are, despite our rhetoric, every bit as ornery as anyone else. Maybe ornerier. When we preach that Christians need God’s grace, we mean it!

One caveat. USA Today‘s standard of measure is admittedly incomplete. “The analysis does not include corruption cases handled by state law enforcement and it considers only convictions,” writes John Fritze, the USA Today reporter. “Corruption may run more rampant in some states but go undetected.”


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