Two southern states — Louisiana and Mississippi — made the biggest strides in the Center for Public Integrity’s latest financial disclosure rankings for state legislators, but 20 out of the 50 states still received a failing grade and three of those states have no disclosure requirements at all.
Fourteen states in all have improved their disclosure laws since the Center’s last survey in 2006. In addition to Louisiana and Mississippi, Oregon, and Connecticut moved up in the rankings, while Massachusetts suffered the biggest drop.
Among the states that received failing grades are Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. The number of F's represents an improvement, though minor, over the 24 states that failed in both 2006 and 1999. Idaho, Michigan, and Vermont continue to tie for last place, as no personal financial disclosure laws exist, or have ever existed, in those states.
“Citizens have a right to expect a certain amount of basic and personal information about their elected officials,” said Mary Boyle, vice president for communications for Common Cause. Disclosure laws allow the public “to make a judgment about whether there are conflicts of interest,” Boyle said. When states have weak or nonexistent disclosure laws, she added, “the public knows less about an elected official.”