The States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials (S.W.A.M.P.) Index is a comparative scorecard which rates 50 States and the District of Columbia based on the laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency in the executive and legislative branches.
States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials (S.W.A.M.P.) Index
There is wide variation in state laws and regulations governing ethics and transparency in the executive and legislative branches. The full report includes our detailed findings on individual questions. Below is a brief distillation of some of our major findings.
No state achieved a perfect score, and in fact, no state scored above 80. This is the same result as 2018.
35 states scored below 60; in 2018, the number was the same.
10 states scored below 40; in 2018, the number was 12 states.
Three states, Washington (80), Rhode Island (78) and the District of Columbia (76) land at the top of the score chart. While Washington (78 in 2018) and Rhode Island (75 in 2018) were in the top three in 2018, the District of Columbia replaced California as a result of the addition of the new questions.
Washington remains the top scorer. It has an Executive Ethics Board and a Legislative Ethics Board, both of which have authority to independently investigate, hold public hearings, issue reprimands and impose fines. The state also has strong gift rules which prohibit elected and appointed executive branch officials and legislators from accepting more than $50 worth of gifts, in aggregate, in a calendar year or in a single gift from multiple sources. State law also provides an avenue to protect the anonymity of an ethics complainant. Finally, disclosure of payors of political advertisements is required across all media.
We have seen improvement in the ethical framework in many states since 2018, as a result of our advocacy and that of other state-based organizations. The most significant change from 2018 is that two states (North Dakota and New Mexico) which did not have an independent ethics agency now have one. In spite of these improvements, there are still gaps in ethics laws that need to be addressed.
The 2020 S.W.A.M.P. Index showcases the wide variation in state ethics laws across the country and highlights gaps that continue to exist. It drives home the point that we must continue to demand that state legislators enact laws that promote integrity and transparency.
All states should have an independent ethics agency with jurisdiction over elected and appointed executive branch officials, legislators and executive and legislative branch employees.
Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming still do not have an independent ethics agency.
An ethics agency which can only provide advice can be ignored. Whether there are one or two agencies with jurisdiction over all elected officials and public servants, the agency needs wide powers to investigate and sanction all government personnel.
Four states have ethics agencies with no ability to sanction or impose fines. Two of those states do not have the power to investigate whatsoever.
Proceedings of the ethics agency should be open to the public once there is a determination that probable cause exists to indicate that a violation has occurred.
Twenty-two ethics agencies cannot hold public hearings.
Legislators should be subject to the same treatment as elected executive branch officials and employees. In states where legislatures have a separate ethics entity, it should be independent of the legislature, composed of members of the public and not legislators.
The ethics agency must provide an avenue to accept anonymous complaints, and keep the identity of named complainants confidential from the respondent.
Twenty-six states with ethics agencies do not accept anonymous complaints, and do not keep the identity of the complainant confidential.
Members of an ethics agency should be statutorily protected from removal without cause.
Eight states do not statutorily protect the members of their ethics agencies from removal without cause.
Gift rules should apply equally to all government officials and should prohibit all gifts above a reasonable threshold, regardless of the source and regardless of the intent of the recipient or the gift-giver.
Mississippi has no explicit prohibition on gifts at any level.
Six states use a subjective test to determine the impropriety of a gift - that is, whether the gift-giver intended to influence.
Reporting all gifts above a reasonable threshold should apply equally to all government officials.
Seventeen states require no gift disclosure.
Legislators should disclose the names of all clients for whom they work, whether the client directly hires the legislator or hires the entity which employs the legislator.
No state currently requires legislators to disclose the names of all their clients.
Nineteen states require limited disclosure, either for certain types of clients or under certain circumstances.
States should mandate disclosure of the beneficial owners of LLCs and donors to 501(c) organizations which contribute to independent spenders.
Currently, no state requires full disclosure — reporting 1) name, address, date and amount of contributions above a reasonable level by all contributors to independent spenders and 2) the underlying sources of funding for these contributions made by LLCs and 501(c) organizations.
Political advertisements across all forms of media — print, television/radio, and Internet — should be transparent about their underlying funding.
Nine states require disclosure of funders of political advertisements in print media, radio, and television, but not over the Internet.
The scoring rubric serves as the answer key to the scoring chart, matching index scores to succinct descriptions of full credit, partial credit, and no credit answers to the research questions (and the corresponding scoring chart keywords). NB: this document must be read side-by-side with our scoring chart.