A new study ranks New Jersey tops in the nation for its procedures for uncovering corruption.
In a report released Monday, the Center for Public Integrity rated all 50 states in terms of their laws for public records access, requiring reports of campaign donations, accountability of all three branches of government, state budget transparency, civil service procedures, purchasing procedures, lobbyist disclosure, audits, pension fund management, ethics bodies, insurance regulation and redistricting.
"Keep in mind we're not measuring cases of corruption, but the systems in place to prevent it, and encourage openness and transparency in government," said Gordon Witkin, CPI's managing editor.
The report is likely a surprise for many state residents, who are accustomed to a steady drumbeat of arrrests of state and local officials for misuse of office. That includes the arrests of 44 people in 2009 for corruption and money laundering.
But the New Jersey's history of ethically-challenged politicos goes back much further, at least as far as a colonial governor, as the Wall Street Journal reported after the 2009 arrests.
has had its share of scandal over the years with its politicians. Former Mayor Walter Zirpolo, who served in office from 1962 to 1967, pleaded guilty in 1973 to federal charges of bribe taking in the construction of a pipeline. Zirpolo, who died in 1991, was sentenced to two to six years in prison; he was released from jail after serving 15 months.
More recently, former Governor Jim McGreevey, who rose to power from the mayoral seat in Woodbridge, made national news as he simultaneously announced his resignation and his homosexuality. McGreevey left the governorship in 2004 after sexual harrassment lawsuit threats from his ex-lover, an Israeli citizen McGreevey had appointed as the state's head of Homeland Security.