Methodology

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The State Integrity Investigation mobilized a network of state reporters to generate quantitative data and qualitative reporting on the health of the anti-corruption framework at the state level. Reporters scored 330 questions about their state’s accountability and transparency framework — what we call Corruption Risk Indicators — by combining extensive desk research with thousands of original interviews of state government experts. Among those interviewed were current and former officials with experience inside the bureaucracy, as well as private sector researchers, journalists and executives from civil society and ‘good government’ organizations.

To identify the project’s Corruption Risk Indicators, staff from Global Integrity and the Center for Public Integrity contacted nearly 100 state-level organizations working in the areas of good government and public sector reform nationwide. We asked them a simple question: what issue areas mattered most in their state when it came to the risk of significant corruption occurring in the public sector? The outcome was a list of questions, rooted in the day-to-day realities of state government operations. In addition, Global Integrity and the Center for Public Integrity included additional indicators that the two organizations had previously fielded in similar projects. Specifically, these indicators were drawn from the Center’s States of Disclosure project and Global Integrity’s Global Integrity Report and Local Integrity Initiative efforts.

The project’s final 330 “Corruption Risk Indicators” assess the existence, effectiveness, and citizen access to key governance and anti-corruption mechanisms in the fifty states. They seek to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the medicine applied against corruption in each state — openness, transparency, and accountability — rather than the disease of corruption itself. They examine issues such as information transparency; political financing at the state level; conflicts of interest issues in the executive, state legislatures and judiciary; fiscal and budgetary management; the state civil service and its management; state pension fund transparency; ethics commissions; and redistricting. The final state report cards, which are simply an aggregated snapshot of all of the individual indicator scores, take into account both existing legal measures on the books as well as de facto realities of implementation and enforcement in each state.

All indicators were scored by the lead state reporters based on original interviews and desk research. The data were then blindly reviewed by a peer reviewer for each state who was asked to flag indicators that appeared inaccurate, inconsistent, biased, or otherwise deserving of correction. Project managers at Global Integrity and the Center for Public Integrity worked for more than half a year with the lead reporters and peer reviewers to resolve questions and debates around each and every one of the 16,500 indicators compiled during the course of the reporting.

The reporting and research to score the indicators was conducted during the summer of 2011, with a formal cut-off date of September 15, 2011, for all scores. More recent developments and reforms (after September 15, 2011) will not be reflected in the final score choices. However, some report cards may mention more recent developments in some states as captured in the reporters’ and peer reviewers’ comments.