Out of Harrisburg's glare
Various studies show that Pennsylvania is not the nation's most corrupt state. It just seems to be that way given the run of public-corruption cases over the past four years.
There have been more than 30 in the state Legislature and another 30 or so in Northeastern Pennsylvania involving contractors and local and county officials and judges.
Sure feels like we're No. 1. But Pennsylvania has been ranked 10th, 13th and 18th in corruption in recent studies, according to a comprehensive report on the Pennsylvania Legislature by Temple University.
But it's hard to give these individual studies much credence. One report ranked states lower if they had a proliferation of corruption because of rules and laws passed to combat it. That makes no sense unless you really believe new laws stop corruption cold.
Put all the surveys aside. Illinois is No. 1 in corruption. It's the Big Bad Boy. It's had four governors convicted of crimes since 1973, most recently Rod Blagojevich, who was involved in multiple pay-to-play schemes.
Since the days of Boss Tweed, New York has been a perennial contender. And Louisiana ranks right up there solely for having corrupt Gov. Edwin Edwards convicted of racketeering in 2001 after beating two raps earlier.
New Jersey, for its years of organized crime control and corruption scandals, ranks up there, too.
We fall in after those states.
The Temple study touches on what it is that makes states more corrupt than others.
We've heard most before — that it's simply cyclical or a function of Pennsylvania's “individualistic” culture or the overall number of elected officials.
The Temple study includes mention of the 1966 research by James Q. Wilson, supported by a faculty working paper this year by Felix Campante and Quoc-Anh Do at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School: Isolated state capitals contribute to corruption.
I just heard that theory a week or so ago from former state Aging Secretary Linda Rhodes in an interview on an unrelated topic. And she believes it.
With the key population centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, in the middle of the state, is almost an afterthought. In Philadelphia, Harrisburg is on the frontier of Pennsyltucky, almost another state.
That translates into less public scrutiny by the state's major media organizations and a less demanding public.
Lawmakers from Philly and Pittsburgh suddenly find themselves in the slower lane of Harrisburg, elevated because of their status in the General Assembly, with taxpayers' money to burn in the form of per diems and special leadership accounts, and adoring staffers afraid to tell them “no.”
Until the 2005 pay raise, the Legislature with impunity kept the public virtually locked out of how it spent $300 million a year. Its spending still is not totally transparent.
So the isolated state capital theory, in Pennsylvania's case, might be a contributing factor, along with the state's long-standing political culture of an acceptance of corruption.
It could be true in Albany, N.Y., far removed from the fast-paced and intense media scrutiny of the Big Apple.
In the past it might have applied to Sacramento and its distance from population centers of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. But its rapid growth of late makes it a metro area of 1.9 million.
The theory falls apart in the case of Springfield, Ill. Whatever scandals emerge there, it's hard to top the corrupt political culture of Chicago.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. (717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Saturday essay: Waltz of the robins
- Cole outduels Mets rookie, carries Pirates to victory
- Lenape students earn berth in national SkillsUSA competition
- Kittanning Municipal Authority seeks agreement to clarify its role
- Lowly job likely awaits former Pittsburgh police chief after prison
- Police boost efforts to aid child victims in Armstrong County
- Glassport honors native son as polka drummer
- Leader Times staffers recognized for journalism excellence by Press Club
- Pirates’ McCutchen laughs off pay stub leak
- North Versailles commissioners withhold fire tax funds, cite 1 company’s noncompliance
- Pirates notebook: Stewart, Cole develop rapport