Maryland is a state of middle temperament. It’s also a state of middling ratings when it comes to ethics in government — according to a report released earlier this month by the Coalition for Integrity, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that measures ethical behavior in the public and private sectors.
The report — States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public officials (S.W.A.M.P.) Index — suggests that states have few coherent and consistent statutes and regulations to protect the public.
The S.W.A.M.P. Index is a comparative scorecard that rates the 50 states and District of Columbia based on the laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency in the executive and legislative branches. The questions in the index relate to the scope and independence of ethics agencies, powers of those agencies, acceptance and disclosure of gifts by public officials, transparency of funding independent campaign expenditures and client disclosure by legislators. The index uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is a perfect score.
Maryland was in a three-way tie for 21st place on the list, along with Massachusetts and New York, with a 56 percent score. Washington (78 percent), Rhode Island (75 percent) and California (75 percent) top the list.
“State laws are the first line of defense against corruption and cover thousands of elected or appointed officials and state employees nationwide,” said Shruti Shah, president and CEO of the coalition. “Unfortunately, the S.W.A.M.P. Index highlights that there are many gaps and loopholes in state laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency issues. I want voters to understand the ‘state of ethics’ in their state so they can better evaluate candidates, demand commitments to improve the legal framework and better judge proposed reforms.”
The report comes with a long list of recommendations for improving the ethics climate in statehouses, and lays out the methodology for its scoring.