Some of the US’s highest profile governors have made a list they’d probably rather stay off of — the country’s worst.
A report from political watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) lists what it calls the 11 “worst governors” in America, and among them are California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Governor David Paterson and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Of the 11 governors, all but two are Republicans. Paterson and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson were the two Democrats named.
“We considered whether governors had violated ethics, campaign finance and personal financial disclosure rules as well as whether they had complied with state transparency laws,” CREW stated.
Among the others named is South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who became a household name last year when he disappeared for a week and returned to announce he had been having an affair with an Argentinian woman.
CREW accuses Sanford of “abus[ing] his office for his personal benefit and the benefit of his friends, violat[ing] campaign finance laws by failing to report in-kind contributions and improperly converting campaign funds for personal use, subordinat[ing] his responsibilities to his pursuit of an extramarital affair,” and “endanger[ing] his stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s economy by threatening to refuse stimulus funds.”
Also on the list is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who last year was tipped as a potential future leader of the GOP, but whose star sank after his lackluster televised response to President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.
Jindal, says CREW, “prevented the public release of government records and has fought legislation to make government more transparent, weakened the authority of the state ethics board, refused to accept federal stimulus funds to expand unemployment insurance and to fund other important programs, rewarded campaign donors with government jobs and contracts,” and “has been fined for ethics violations.”
Rounding off the list — which is not ranked but ordered alphabetically — are Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Gov. Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island, Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada, Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, and Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
Read the full CREW report here (PDF).
“There has been a great deal of focus on the ethics of Congress over the past few years, but CREW’s report shows that state governments are not immune to ethics problems,” said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a statement. “Too often — whether in Washington, D.C. or in South Dakota — our country’s political leaders are more focused on what’s best for the favored few, rather than on improving the lives of Americans.”
Sloan continued, “From Gov. Jindal’s hundreds of campaign-contributing state appointees to Gov. Paterson’s efforts to pressure a domestic violence victim to stay silent,” the report “leaves you wondering if these really are the people best equipped to handle the complicated problems faced across the nation.”
Two of the governors listed are running for re-election this year. Gov. Perry of Texas holds a slim lead over his Democratic rivals, while Nevada’s Jim Gibbons has been described as “deeply unpopular” in the state but recently saw himself leading in the polls, by a slim margin, for November.
CREW also put together a list of statistics (PDF) on the governors. Among the facts cited: Five of the governors “threatened to reject stimulus funds” but “took the stimulus anyway”; seven have been investigated by ethics commissions; and nine were “subject to federal or state investigations.”
CREW notes that, because of differences between states on ethics policies, it’s difficult to compare governors.
“It is nearly impossible to compare governorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ adherence to the laws because state rules and laws vary so widely. Each state has its own ethical rules and standards,” the watchdog group said.