For better or worse, there’s only one California. With the largest population, third-largest area and by far the most campaign spending, it has been both mocked and admired for its independence, its powerful citizen initiative process, its far-reaching political reforms, its Hollywood actors-turned-governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan, and its sometimes-wacky ideas of governance.
California has a maze of laws written to make government transparent and to diminish the risks of dishonesty, favoritism and conflicts of interest, but sometimes there are gaps between what the laws say and what they actually do.
Some laws, such as new redistricting procedures, successfully illuminate what should be public processes. Many others, such as campaign finance limits, simply don’t work or have unintended consequences. Open records laws require disclosure but aren’t easily searched online. The state budget process mandates public input, but is usually concluded in secret. The public pension board’s legal obligation to pensioners over taxpayers has cost Californians unexpected millions.
It’s a rich mix that has yielded a mixed bag in the State Integrity Investigation conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. Overall, California ranked fourth among the nation’s 50 states, thanks to a host of laws aimed at making government more transparent and accountable. Its grade of B- and overall score of 81, however, reflect the reality that the sun could shine brighter at the capitol in Sacramento.
Read the complete story and California’s Corruption Risk Report Card at State Integrity Investigation.