Which is the single most corrupt state in our glorious union? Is it Illinois with its Rod Blagojevich bribery bonanza? Louisiana with its freezer-stuffing yet always reelected congressmen? California with its small-town, $700,000-salaried officials?
None of the above, according to a new study out this morning. Florida tops them all -- by a wide margin actually -- based on a rock-solid statistic: the number of state officials actually convicted on federal public corruption charges since 2000.
"Florida faces a corruption crisis that threatens the state's reputation, its economy and its ability to attract new jobs and capital," write the report's authors, Ben Wilcox and Dan Krassner.
Wilcox and Krassner compiled the new report for Integrity Florida, a non-partizan group dedicated to reducing graft in the Sunshine State.
The pair start by admitting that several other states have also laid claim to the coveted title of Most Corrupt in the U.S. -- most recently Illinois, where a University of Chicago study declared that the state is "leading the pack in corruption."
But that report looked at federal data going all the way back to 1976, when the Windy City was still basically a haven of Al Capone-esque bribery minded mobsters.
Wilcox and Krassner decided to look at more recent federal data. Sure enough, winnowing down federal corruption convictions to the past decade -- from 2000 to 2010, the most recent year the numbers have been released for -- reveals that Florida is the nation's graft capital.
On a year-by-year basis, Florida topped the country in that category five times since 2000, with just Texas and California coming close with three top years each.
On an average year, an astounding 71 Florida officials are convicted of corruption charges.
Of course Integrity Florida doesn't just want to point and laugh at Florida's bribery craze; the group offers five recommendations to fix the problems, including creating a statewide corruption tip line, giving the Florida Ethics Commission more power to launch its own inquiries and requiring top officials to report all major transactions from the previous year.
Read the full report yourself here:
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