A nation-wide study finds state governments lack transparency and accountability to citizens, remain at high risk for corruption and Nevada is near the bottom of that list, ranking 42nd.
Not a single state received an "A" from the 60-month probe by the non-profit groups Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity. Nevada was on the cusp of getting an F.
“D minus is pretty awful,” said Randy Barrett, Communications Director for The Center for Public Integrity. “This is a risk report card, this is not an indication of on-going corruption. It is an investigation of the structures that are in place that would protect the public interest against corruption.”
The number one problem was the structure of the state’s government itself, but it also includes some original reporting of questionable activities in the gaming industry.
First, the report says since part time lawmakers have other jobs, they face a lot of potential conflicts. Not only that, lobbyists can operate year round, but their activity is only tracked right before and during legislative sessions. Budget changes can happen in between legislative sessions which "violate, at least in spirit, the principle of representative democracy, as only a handful of legislators serve on the Interim Finance Committee," wrote Joan Whitely in a prepared release on the report. Another key factor is that the legislature has exempted itself from the open-meeting laws.
The report cites at least one extravagant gift of $85,000 to gaming Commissioner Dr. Tony Alamo Jr. from the trust of a gaming family with no details. The report also says Dr. Alamo then abstained from a vote on the commission, which allowed the family of the trust that made the gift to take over a casino in West Wendover. The state system for reporting such gifts flies under the radar to the extent that no media agencies reported it.
It is untold stories like that which exemplify the groups reasons for compiling the report. Barrett said, “Two reasons, news organizations all over the country have been cutting back, particularly in state-house reporting. And so we wanted to fill that vacuum in terms of how states are doing in terms of corruption risk.”
While the Barrett is critical of news organizations cutbacks in coverage, the report has also complied extremely recent articles from media around Nevada showing various questionable activities by politicians.
Nevada lawmakers spent campaign funds on personal expenses, Las Vegas Sun, February 27, 2012.
Nevada businessman, associates gave $117,000 to Senator Harry Reid in one day, Reno Gazette-Journal, February 17, 2012
Nevada politicians exploit credit card loophole to avoid disclosure, Las Vegas Sun, February 13, 2012
Nevada politicians received travel, even tickets, clothing as gifts, Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 19, 2012
Lawsuit over Nevada legislator’s dual roles goes forward, Las Vegas Sun, January 12, 2012
Nevada Supreme Court rules against former Gov. Jim Gibbons on e-mail disclosure, Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 19, 2011
Barrett had something to say to anyone that doesn't believe the public is interested in these political topics: “I think that is B.S. People are interested in this reporting and they are noticing that it is missing and we are getting huge traffic to our site which tells you what kind of interest there is.”
He said that traffic is up 5-fold today. Edgy investigations like this do have consequences.
“No, we expect there will be repercussions, complaints from state agencies that believe they got short shrift. We stand behind our data and our reporting. Our goal is to get this information out in the public realm and for citizens to use it to demand more accountability from their state governments,” Barrett said.
The full report and links to the articles can be found at:
Nevada Corruption Risk Report Card