Virginia is one of the most corrupt states in the country, according to a first of its kind collaborative study spearheaded by the State Integrity Investigation.
The study is a data-driven analysis of transparency and accountability based on about 200 different government integrity indicators.
Virginia received an "F" on its assessment, coming in 47th place overall. Maryland ranked 40th and earned a "D-" on its assessment. Not one state earned an "A." Georgia came in dead last while New Jersey came in first with a "B+."
According to the State Integrity Investigation, Virginia is one of nine states with no statewide ethics commission, one of four states with no campaign finance limits and one of two states where the part-time legislators handpick the judges before whom many of them practice law.
"Virginia has long prided itself on ethical government, but the state’s lax oversight rules, weak consumer representation protections, dwindling capitol press corps and coziness between political and economic elites, have all combined to undermine the validity of that self-image. Meanwhile, the few ethics and disclosure requirements that do exist tend to be flawed, limited or fraught with exemptions and qualifications, according to state ethics experts."
Virginia scored above the median on its civil service management and state purchasing, but scored low on public access to information and on its ethic enforcement mechanisms.
In Maryland, the study cites the story of State Sen. Ulysses Currie -- the former head of the state’s Senate Budget and Taxation Committee who the senate unanimously voted to censure in mid-February over “conflict of interest” charges -- as just another example of a “rogue” politician in the state.
In Maryland, the distance between government and the private sector is slim indeed. Since the legislative session officially runs just 90 days a year, legislators typically have other jobs.
There are regulations requiring that they list other employment on annual financial disclosure forms, but the effective limits of these rules were demonstrated by Currie, who went years without reporting his client. Several senior government officials testified at his trial that he did not disclose his relationship with Shoppers Food Warehouse in meetings.
Maryland ranked in last place in the investigation’s rankings for procurement practices and ranked 46th among states in public access to information.
While Maryland's Public Information Act theoretically grants broad access to public records, according to the investigation, critics say “vague exemption language allows government agencies to deny information requests for almost any reason.”
The District wasn’t included in the rankings, but given the wave of corruption charges plaguing local officials, it’s probably safe to assume D.C. wouldn’t have received an "A."
* The Virginia GOP has scheduled three debates for Virginia’s U.S. Senate primary on June 12.
The first debate is on Saturday, April 28 at 3 p.m. in Roanoke. On Friday, May 11, the candidates will debate in Hampton Roads at 6:30 p.m., followed by a debate on May 25 at 6:30 p.m in Northern Virginia.
Specific locations, formats, and other details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Former Gov. George Allen, Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson, Hampton Roads attorney David McCormick and Chesterfield tea party activist Jamie Radtke are all competing for the nomination.
Allen is the heavy favorite and is expected to go up against former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine for the seat in the main election.
* It’s unclear if this is a cause for celebration or just another sign of the partisan feuds that have taken hold of the Virginia Senate this legislative session.
But Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling broke the record for casting the most number of tiebreaking votes.
The Washington Post reports that Bolling surpassed the previous record holder, Don Beyer, Virginia’s Democratic lieutenant governor from 1990 to 1998. He cast 12 tie-breakers in 1997. Bolling cast 28 votes this year in the evenly split senate.
Beyer gave his reaction to the Post.
“Well, rats. I knew it would happen someday,” he said via e-mail from Washington, where he attended a State Department conference last week. “Congratulations to Lt Gov Bolling!”
* The Baltimore Sun reports that house Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell tried to testify against a tax-increase bill but was turned away by the chairwoman of the committee hearing the legislation.
"The occasion was a hearing on the Senate bill passed last week raising state income taxes. It was, like the hearings on most Senate bills coming over to the House, a sponsors-only event. When O'Donnell tried to follow the panel from the Senate to the witness stand, House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Sheila E. Hixson promptly ruled O'Donnell out of order and adjourned the hearing."
But O’Donnell used the rejection that he knew was coming to his advantage by holding a news conference outside the committee at which argued against the bill.
Via the Sun:
"It affects the state of Maryland's ability to be a business-friendly state," O'Donnell told reporters. "This bill kicks people when they're down."
* Two weeks before the D.C. primary election, early voting is already under way at Judiciary Square. Seven additional locations will open throughout the city next Saturday.
All polling locations will be open on Election Day, April 3.
For further information about polling locations and hours check here.