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Arizona Gets a “D” Grade in State Integrity Investigation

Everyone is disappointed, but nobody is surprised to learn that Arizona state government has flunked their State Integrity Investigation. There’s been a storied history of Arizona’s state government’s lack of accountability and history of corruption. In a state now overrun with fast cash loan companies, it’s time for the state to clean up.

A History of Hiding Information

In recent years, the findings are certainly shocking. But they’re probably not the worst of it. This is only what’s been unearthed. For example, in 2013 a mountain of Child Protective Services folders were found haphazardly tossed into an alley, revealing the true collapse of the incompetent agency.

Throughout 2014, the state of Arizona had a serious and lengthy list of “dark money” expenditures. The majority of the mysteriously missing funds were traced to electing the governor and state utility regulators.

In 2015, the new governor, Doug Ducey, started the process of implementing a state inspector general, but it was fortunately shut down after word got out and there were concerns of the governor establishing a kind of “secret police,” as the state inspector general position would have little to no transparency and would report directly to the governor.

Generally, governors shouldn’t try to cover up the funding sources of their elections or establish high-ranking state official positions that exist to serve the governor’s agenda. But what’s even sadder is that the state of Arizona actually hit around average in terms of state governments and their less-than-legal dealings.

The Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity Continues Investigations

The State Integrity Investigation is a relatively new data-driven technique of rating the U.S. state’s governmental systems on their effectiveness, transparency, public honesty, overall integrity, and more. It may sound a little idealistic and saccharine, but honesty from elected officials is an American ideal that the public still values as being one of the most important attributes of their representatives in government. That’s why so much public importance is placed on these new investigations.

The investigations are conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. For 2015, the state of Arizona received an overall score of 64. This ranks them at a D, but Arizona is still ranked at 22nd among the U.S. states for government integrity.

Potential Improvements in Arizona State Operations

In 2012, Arizona’s overall score was slightly higher, at a 68 or a D+ and was ranked at number 30 out of the U.S. states. Since then, it’s dropped by four points.

But the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity says that the two scores shouldn’t really be compared, given the improvements made to the investigations’ methods in the time between the state’s integrity investigations. The changes affect the scoring outcomes, so it’s difficult to say whether Arizona’s state integrity has improved or worsened under different leadership.

The 2015 report does show several strengths in Arizona’s government compared to other states. Arizona scored well in the category of judicial accountability, and ranks as 2nd in the nation with a score of 77, which would earn them a C+. They also scored incredibly high in internal auditing, where the state was tied for the 4th best in the country, with a score of 87, which is a B+ score.

Arizona Earned Failing Grades in 6 out of 13 Categories Investigated

Despite the several high rankings and positive grades in two categories, Arizona also flunked six of the thirteen categories, earning a solid F. They were reported as having serious errors in categories including pension management, lobbying oversight, ethics enforcement, civil service protections, access to information, and executive accountability.

These failing grades in those particular departments are unsurprising, given the information widely known about lapses in government executive accountability, spending, and the lack of transparency and full information released to the public throughout the state of Arizona.

One of the more publicly known lapses in government integrity occurred after a 2009 report revealed that officials involved in the college football league’s Fiesta Bowl, which is annually held in Arizona, were convicted in a plot to reimburse their employees for donations made to Arizona politicians. The criminal wrongdoings were talked about in reference to Arizona’s continued oversight in all state lobbying activity.

Poor Oversight in Lobbying Activity Made Public

The continuation of the lobbying oversight failing grades has reignited anger over the 2009 government scandal, and has citizens concerned about more vaguely worded state reporting statutes that allow for financial disclosure loopholes within the state government.

The secretary of state’s office is in charge of collecting reports of Arizona lobbying activity, but isn’t required to perform compliance reviews, or release information to the public about its spending activity. The wording of the reporting requirements is carefully tailored to circumvent prosecution, as the wording of the statutes could be interpreted in different ways, making it nearly impossible to convict them of any wrongdoing or false reports.

90% of all lobbying dollars spent in Arizona are unreported. This is because either large group of public officials attended such a lobbying event, or because the lobbying reported spending less than $20 trying to get their client’s interest put to the forefront using methods like the Fiesta Bowl incident, or using “gifts.”

Arizona’s Confirmed Lack of Information Properly Provided to the Public

Following with the pattern of a statewide lack of transparency and information disclosed to the public, Arizona earned a failing grade in keeping important government data out of the hands of the public that they represent. The Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog nonprofit, generated a 2010 policy that would encourage state governments to allow information to be made available to the public; not in summary or brief description, but in its entirety.

This would allow the most original form of the government information to be made freely and publically accessible, so that the public would be made aware of the details happening within the state government. In theory, these policy guidelines would help keep the Arizona government publicly accountable, and would allow the public to ensure that government data was collected correctly and thoroughly documents any expenditures in detail, confirming that tax dollars are going where they were intended to be distributed.

But the state of Arizona continues to fail in following these policies, and continues to hide their government information from the public. The D grade in the recent State Integrity Investigation confirms these severe lapses in policy compliance, and will serve to continue monitor state government’s progress in improvements and public honesty.