Under the Dome

N.C. drops a notch on 'integrity' ranking

In the six years since the Better Government Association first rated the states for its "integrity index," North Carolina has added an ethics law for the executive branch and banned lobbyists from offering golf trips, Super Bowl tickets and other expensive perks to state lawmakers.

But the changes had little effect on North Carolina's rank, Dan Kane reports. In fact, it dropped a spot from 22nd to 23rd place in a recently released report.

The association, a Chicago-based watchdog, rates the states on three core principles — transparency, accountability and limits on campaign contributions, gifts and other perks. States that  have strong laws for freedom of information, whistleblower protection, campaign finance, open meetings and conflict-of-interest disclosures fare best.

North Carolina may have dropped a notch because the association changed its ranking system. In the 2002 index, the association rated states for limits on gifts. This time around, the association dropped the rating, saying that the loopholes many states have regarding such perks makes it hard to evaluate which states have the best practices.

That was an area in which North Carolina made significant strides after the scandals that put House Speaker Jim Black in prison.

In other areas, the index found that North Carolina ranked 40th in making information public, 19th in whistleblower protection, 14th in campaign finance accountability, 29th on open meetings and 19th on conflict of interest disclosure.

"North Carolina has come a long way, but obviously we still have a lot of work to do," said Jane Pinsky, director of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, which pushed for many of the reforms enacted in the past few years.

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