A new study ranks New Jersey tops in the nation for its procedures for uncovering corruption.
In a report released Monday, the Center for Public Integrity rated all 50 states in terms of their laws for public records access, requiring reports of campaign donations, accountability of all three branches of government, state budget transparency, civil service procedures, purchasing procedures, lobbyist disclosure, audits, pension fund management, ethics bodies, insurance regulation and redistricting.
"Keep in mind we're not measuring cases of corruption, but the systems in place to prevent it, and encourage openness and transparency in government," said Gordon Witkin, CPI's managing editor.
The report is likely a surprise for state residents, who are accustomed to a steady drumbeat of arrrests of state and local officials for misuse of office. That includes the arrests of 44 people in 2009 for corruption and money laundering.
In 2003, former Essex County Executive James W. Treffinger pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and mail fraud. Treffinger, a former mayor of Verona, was a leading Republican candidate for U.S. Senate at the time.
But the New Jersey's history of ethically-challenged politicos goes back much further, at least as far as a colonial governor, as the Wall Street Journal reported after the 2009 arrests.