Nothing encapsulates Wyoming more than its logo of a bucking horse and rider, which adorns everything from license plates to the insignia of the state’s only four-year university.
It’s easy to imagine a lone cowboy on his horse galloping across the barren landscape in this state, and that’s still a regular sight here. The Wild West lives on in Wyoming in fields of sagebrush, roaming bison, swaths of vast ranchland, craggy Teton Mountains and even in its bustling oil and gas fields.
Nicknamed the “Cowboy State” for good reason, Wyoming even has cowboy ethics signed into law as the official state code. Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal made the 10 principles of “Cowboy Ethics,” from Jim Owen’s book of the same name, the guideline for Wyoming in 2010. Among these principles: “Do what has to be done”; “Be tough, but fair”; and, “When you make a promise, keep it.”
The passionate individualism and stark independence of the cowboy spirit dominate the state’s politics as well. There are few laws infringing on personal liberties in Wyoming, and the statutes that the state does have can be decidedly vague. Bureaucracy and intrusive government are frowned upon here, privacy prized. As a result, open meetings and public records laws, as well as disclosure requirements for campaigns, elected officials and lobbyists are purposefully weak.
And so Wyoming gets a grade of F and a numerical score of 51 from the State Integrity Investigation, an assessment of state government accountability and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity, ranking it 49th among the states. The result is not much different from where the Cowboy State stood in the 2012 investigation — an F grade, a numerical score of 52 and a No. 48 ranking. The two scores are not directly comparable, however, due to changes made to improve and update the project and methodology, such as eliminating the category for redistricting, a process that generally occurs only once every 10 years.