West Virginia’s grade in the latest edition of the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation dropped from a D-plus to a D. However, the state moved up from 27th to 17th nationally, as most states scored dismally when it came to open and transparent government.
Released Monday, the assessment of government transparency and accountability gave failing grades to 11 states, while only three states earned higher than D-plus. Alaska topped the list with a grade of only a C.
A summary of the investigation notes, “In state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions, and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Meanwhile, feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”
Citing federal court decisions that prevent the secretary of state’s office from enforcing contribution limits to independent political groups, the investigation’s summary for West Virginia states, “This new reality, combined with the state’s weak open record laws, has resulted in West Virginia earning an overall grade of D, ranking the state 17th out of 50 in the State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government accountability and transparency by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity.”
The study gave West Virginia failing grades for Public Access to Information — citing a lack of any appeals process for Freedom of Information request denials short of filing suit in circuit court — Political Financing, Electoral Oversight, and Judicial Accountability.
The report notes, “In the past few years, though, there have been some significant improvements in West Virginia on the accountability front. In 2014, the state Ethics Commission began conducting random audits of lobbyist spending reports for the first time since 2011.”
However, it faults a lack of improvement, since its last investigation released in 2012, regarding access to public information…
Follow the author on Twitter @PhilKabler