Guest Post: The Coalition for Integrity’s New SWAMP Index Highlights Progress and Shortcomings in U.S. State Ethics Systems

Today’s guest post is by Shruti Shah and Alex Amico, respectively President and Legal Fellow at the Coalition for Integrity, a civil society advocacy organization focused on corruption in the United States.

The unprecedented health crisis has demonstrated yet again the importance of strong ethics and transparency laws—not only on the national level, but at the sub-national level as well. In the United States, citizens are looking to their state legislators and governors to provide leadership, even as the large sums of government being spent on the pandemic response raise concerns about corruption and self-dealing. It is essential for the public to have confidence that public officials will adhere to the highest standards of ethics and integrity. One way to ensure this is with a strong state-level framework for ethics laws. To improve our understanding of the existing frameworks, and to highlight priority areas for improvement, the Coalition for Integrity recently released the second edition of the States With Anti-corruption Measures for Public employees (S.W.A.M.P.) Index. This report updates and expands on our 2018 report, with two new questions to better reflect the state of ethics regimes. Continue reading

Guest Post: U.S. State Ethics Agencies Must Improve Both Enforcement and Transparency

Today’s guest post is from Shruti Shah, President and CEO of the Coalition for Integrity (C4I), and Alex Amico, a C4I legal fellow.

Recently, the Coalition for Integrity released a report on Enforcement of Ethics Rules by State Agencies (along with an associated index and map) which examined the performance of state-level ethics agencies across the United States. In addition to providing basic enforcement statistics, the report emphasized two aspects of these agencies’ performance. First, the report looked at how these agencies enforced the ethics laws they were charged with enforcing, to see how aggressively agencies stand up for ethical government within their legal authority. Second, the report examined how transparent the agencies were in that enforcement, and hence how accountable these agencies make themselves to the public. (The report also ranked each state and agency based on their transparency of enforcement). Both of these aspects of agency performance are crucial to creating a culture of honest government and a robust ethics enforcement regime. Some our headline findings with respect to each of these dimensions of performance were as follows: Continue reading