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Indiana makes poor public integrity marks

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IMAGE COURTESY OF XIGULI LISA
  • Image courtesy of Xiguli Lisa

By Megan Banta

Indiana has scored poorly in a study that attempts to measure a state government's risk of corruption.

The State Integrity Index – released early Monday – assigned Indiana a grade of C-, which ranked it the 22ndhighest score among the 50 states.

Indiana was one of 19 states to receive a grade in the C range. Five states got a B grade and no state received an A.

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Gerry Lanosga, president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government, said in a report on Indiana that the state "receives generally high marks for judicial accountability, state budget transparency, new ethics restrictions on lawmakers and lobbyists, and the creation of an Inspector General's office."



But Lanosga, who teaches journalism at Ball State University, also reported "inconsistent ethics enforcement, feeble campaign finance regulation, and an inadequate open records law."

The index comes from a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity. It attempts to assess transparency, accountability and anti-corruption mechanisms in all 50 states in order to measure both the strength of laws and practices that encourage openness and the risk of corruption.

Reporters and others in each state researched 330 "corruption risk indicators" in 14 categories of government, including campaign finance, accountability of each of the branches, budgeting and internal auditing.

In Indiana, Lanosga said, corruption continues to be a concern, citing former Secretary of State Charlie White's felony voter fraud convictions and the grand jury indictment of David Lott Hardy, the state's former top utility regulator.

The index also ranked states on enforcement gap, access to info, political financing and executive accountability.

For the enforcement gap, which measures the difference between what the law says and what the government implements, Indiana received a gap score of 20, the fourteenth highest score. A higher gap score means that a state is not doing well implementing laws that address transparency and accountability.

Lanosga provided one example of this in Indiana. He said though the Indiana House and Senate have ethics committees, they do little in the way of investigations. He said the first reprimand in the history of the House was when the House ethics committee admonished Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, for not reporting consulting earnings in 1997 and that the committee "has done little in the way of investigations since."

Indiana was ranked 42nd for access to info, and Lanosga said Indiana receive a grade of F on government access in a recent survey by the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Better Government Association.

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Lanosga listed several problems with the Access to Publics Records Act, including no clear deadline for compliance by public officials in charge of records and no penalties for lack of compliance.

However, the Indiana General Assembly just passed legislation that allows a judge to fine public officials up to $100 for a first time offense of failing to provide public records.

Indiana also ranked low in political financing, coming in at 44 out of 50, and Lanosga cited several things that reinforce that ranking.

Lanosga said Indiana is "one of only 12 states that let individuals and political action committees give unlimited amounts." And he said it's not hard for labor unions and corporations to get around contribution limits by creating PACs.

He also said that "enforcement of campaign finance rules is virtually nil."

Indiana fared slightly better in executive accountability, ranking 30th.

Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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