Alabama Listed As One of Ten Most Corrupt States

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By Ashley Thompson

Fortune Magazine has released a list of the ten most politically corrupt states and Alabama is on that list. Some of the criteria - - The convictions of public officials as well as patterns in state spending.

On average, this study finds Alabamians pay around 1300 dollars per year on corruption.

This year, we've seen two politicians from our area under investigation for possible government corruption. Representative Greg Wren pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics charge, while Representative Barry Moore was arrested on charges of perjury. Political Analyst Steve Flowers says southern states see corruption because they're usually one-party states.

"There's an old saying in politics that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely so when you let one party have total dominance, you get sort of like an immunity. They feel like they're immune to being prosecuted."

Now, Fortune Magazine calls Alabama one of the ten most corrupt states. Jim Sumner is the Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission and says politicians give Alabama a black eye when they make poor choices.

"I think that's something that we've seen repeatedly in several studies that have been done around the country," he says. A"labama always ranks or has ranked in the top ten,12, 15 states in terms of corruption."

In recent years, the ethics commission has established guidelines for politicians in an attempt to limit corruption. As of 2010, lobbyists now have a limit on how much they can spend to entertain lawmakers, 150 dollars per year, and the ethics commission now has subpoena power, the last ethics commission in the country to get it.

"We have had a number of situations over the years where we knew that if we could just get a bank record or we could get a cell phone record, we could get something along those lines, that we could connect all the dots," says Sumner.

Flowers says he believes there's a grey area, where some politicians may not know what they're doing is wrong. He references the Don Siegelmon case.

"Is it unethical to take a campaign contribution from somebody then appoint him to a board? Well, Ashley, presidents do that everyday to ambassadors."

But Sumner says there's no reason for the government corruption.

"They do know what they're doing is wrong because we teach them seminars as well," he explains. "In other words, that's now a mandate in the 2010 ethics law. It is mandated that lawmakers have to sit for a seminar on the ethics issue."

Sumner tells us over 1000 seminars in ethics laws have been taught since he's been the director. He announced he will retire this October, after serving 17 years as the Director of the Alabama Ethics Commission.  After he retires, he says he'd like to teach or do consulting in the private sector.




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