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When it Comes to Political Corruption, Alaskans Try Harder!


December 11, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska - Alaskans were feeling pretty smug recently when Illinois leapt up and took away our position near the top of the political corruption hit parade in the national media.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Dave Kiffer

Yes, we were having our little bit of limelight as a state apparently willing to re-elect a convicted felon to the US Senate, but it turned out that even we couldn't go there. Although, it was touch and go on that point for a few weeks after the election.

Thank goodness, Illinois stepped up the plate by offering up a sitting governor allegedly caught on tape offering to sell a seat in the US Senate. Only in Illinois could this be considered a "reform" candidate, swept into office as his gubernatorial predecessor was facing jail time for - wait for it - government corruption.

But we had a only a little time to savor getting bumped out of the spotlight. USA Today has now come up with a list of :most politically corrupt states. Not surprisingly Alaska (AKA VECOland) is pretty high on the list.

How high?

How about second?

Yep, according to the methodology used by USA Today, we are the second worst state for political corruption, per capita.

Per Capita is a fancy Latin term for "there aren't nearly as many political crooks in Alaska as New York but there are a whole heckuva lot fewer people overall so it's worse."

Basically, USA Today took the number of convictions for the various and sundry forms of political corruption over the past decade, divided them by the number of people in each state and came up with a number representing the number of political corruption convictions per 100,000 people in each state.

As I said before, Alaska finished second. We are the AVIS of political hanky panky.

Of course, there is one glaring problem with the methodology. There's one word in the "nut graph" two paragraphs above that calls into question the entire "survey."

That word is "convictions." USA Today limited its discussion of corruption to a single stat. The number of "convictions." By the Feds no less.

That simply means that in Alaska and some other states there were an awful lot of politicians "convicted" of corruption. Maybe that's a good thing. It shows that we are catching the "bad guys." At least some of them. And you have to figure that in some states the long arm of the law is probably coming up pretty short when it comes to political corruption.

In fact another odd facet of the study is that it only takes into account federal prosecutions not state or local ones. But then again state and local law enforcement don't usually spend much time investigating political corruption. They know who butters their bread and which side it's buttered on.

So, according to the USA Today survey Alaska has 7.7 political corruption convictions per every 100,000 people. The average for all the states in the survey was 2.4.

The lowest states on the list were Nebraska at 0.7, Oregon at 1.0 and Vermont at 1.1. In general there were fewer convictions out west than back east and the besides Alaska, there were a lot of convictions in the deep South and Appalachia.

Where was Illinois on the list?

Oddly enough only 18th. But, once again, I suspect there are many, many greased palms in the Land of Lincoln that aren't being slapped in handcuffs. After all, the main reason the current governor is in hot water is because he taunted law enforcement a couple of years ago by daring them to wiretap him because he "had nothing to hide." Shades of Gary Hart! Anyway, they did wiretap him and found out all sorts of fun stuff.

Perhaps in honor of the late Mayor Daley of Chicago, USA Today also counted the residents of the cemeteries as part of the current population. After all, they do vote, even if they are probably less likely to pass bribes.

So if Illinois isn't on top of the list, then who is?

What about Louisiana?

A US Congressman in the Big Sleazy recently got caught with something like $80,000 in "cold, hard" cashbacks in his freezer. Oddly enough, he was just barely edged out of office by the voters this go round much like our own Senator Stevens.

How about Massachusetts, which recently had a State Senator caught on tape stuffing several thousand dollars in bribes into her brassiere?

Nope, Taxachusetts is actually less "corrupt" than Illinois, according to USA Today. Both Mayor Daley and Mayor Curley can rest in peace with the knowledge it still is possible to fool most of the people all of the time!

So who is the national champion for political corruption?

Long pause, and drum roll please.

North Dakota!

(Loud "huh" from the peanut gallery!).

That's right, the "Peace Garden State" is the most corrupt state in the union.

Of course, locals there dispute any such ranking. They point out that yes, North Dakota has had a high percentage of convictions , 8.3., in the past decade but that is simply because it's too hard to hide things in a place where everyone knows everyone else's "bizzness."

They have a point. In small states like North Dakota and Alaska it's pretty hard to hide it when you are on the take. Pretty soon, everyone notices that you are wearing nicer clothes and driving a nicer car and that your "cabin" all of a sudden has a nifty new second story.

I suppose that we in Alaska could also say that -like North Dakota - we just do a better job of "policing" the bad eggs in our political basket.

The only difference is that we in Alaska noticed all the "on the take changes" years ago and we didn't do or say a danged thing about it.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2008

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