Is Harrisburg sleazier than Little Rock?
On the day we learn that a second Pennsylvania State Senator went to the Super Bowl on the dime of an energy company drilling in the Marcellus Shale, we hear of plans to study and rank the 50 state capitols on their susceptibility to corruption.
The Center for Public Integrity and two other non-profits have funding to look into every state's campaign finance laws, ethics rules, civil service management and budget process.
This is much needed.
As sleazy as local politics can be, state capitols in particular are hothouses for corruption bacteria. That's because the workings of legislatures don't excite media organizations, especially these days, and because legislators at state capitols are away from their homes, spouses, constituents and local reporters, so it's just too easy for them to think nobody is watching and yield to temptation.
The Center for Public Integrity will partner with Public Radio International and Global Integrity for the study. They'll take a year and a half, and the news release says they'll hire political reporters part-time to do the research.
Besides the rankings, the team plans to "create online data, reporting and technology tools to empower citizens to demand greater accountability and reform."
I'll look forward to their results, and I expect the Keystone State to make the top five.
Read more about the project here.
By the way, more kudos are due the Inquirer's Angela Couloumbis and Joe Tanfani for staying on the free Super Bowl trips story.
Today they report that Democratic State Senator Tim Solobay from Western Pennnsylvania dodged reporters for two days, and on Wednesday stayed holed up in his office to avoid scribes waiting outside.
He finally issued a statement saying he complies with state laws (further evidence of the need for the study).
Read the latest installment on this drama here.