Is Washington More Corrupt Than Other States?

Corruption is a serious problem that affects many aspects of society, such as democracy, economic development, human rights, and environmental protection. Corruption can be defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, and it can take various forms, such as bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, fraud, and extortion. Corruption can occur at different levels of government, from local to national, and in different sectors, such as public administration, judiciary, law enforcement, health, education, and business.

How is corruption measured and ranked?

One of the most widely used indicators of corruption is the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), published annually by Transparency International, a global civil society organization that fights corruption. The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption, using a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The CPI is based on data from 13 independent sources, such as expert assessments and surveys of business people and citizens.

According to the 2022 CPI, the global average score was 43 out of 100, indicating that most countries are failing to stop corruption. More than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, while 26 countries fell to their lowest scores yet. The top-scoring countries were Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden, and Switzerland, while the bottom-scoring countries were Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and Sudan.

The United States ranked 24th out of 180 countries, with a score of 69 out of 100, slightly improving from its score of 67 in 2021. However, the US still faces significant challenges in addressing corruption, such as undue influence of money in politics, lack of transparency and accountability in government, erosion of the rule of law, and threats to the independence of the media and civil society.

How does Washington compare to other states?

Within the US, there are also variations in the levels and types of corruption across different states. One of the most comprehensive studies on state-level corruption was the State Integrity Investigation, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International in 2012 and 2015.

The study assessed the risk of corruption in each state based on 330 indicators across 14 categories, such as campaign finance, ethics enforcement, lobbying disclosure, public access to information, and judicial accountability. The study assigned each state a letter grade from A to F, based on its overall score.

According to the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, the best-performing states were Alaska, California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, while the worst-performing states were Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming. No state received an A grade, while 11 states received an F grade. The average state score was 59 out of 100, equivalent to a D+ grade.

Washington ranked 12th out of 50 states, with a score of 68 out of 100, equivalent to a D+ grade. Washington performed well in some categories, such as electoral oversight, internal auditing, and procurement, but poorly in others, such as lobbying disclosure, judicial accountability, and ethics enforcement. Washington also had some notable cases of corruption in recent years, such as the conviction of former state auditor Troy Kelley for tax evasion, money laundering, and theft, and the indictment of former state representative David Sawyer for extortion, harassment, and perjury.


Based on the available data and evidence, it is not possible to conclusively answer whether Washington is more corrupt than other states, as corruption is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that is difficult to measure and compare. However, it is clear that Washington, like every other state, has room for improvement in preventing and combating corruption, and that corruption poses a serious threat to the public interest and the common good.

Therefore, it is important for citizens, civil society, media, and government officials to work together to promote transparency, accountability, integrity, and participation in public affairs, and to hold those who abuse their power accountable. Only then can we ensure that Washington, and the US as a whole, lives up to its ideals of democracy, justice, and equality.

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