In the wake of New York Gov. David Paterson's latest scandal, The Economist said "Dysfunctional Albany ... is frequently cited as the nation's worst state government—a title for which there is intense competition." We at NEWSWEEK are fans of competition, so seven of our staffers made the case for states they're intimately familiar with. Here reporter David Graham argues for his home state of Ohio.
Ohio's corruption has been overshadowed by bigger-name states in the last two years, but it would be a mistake to count it out: for several years in the last decade, the Buckeye State was a national standout. Comically unpopular Gov. Bob Taft's administration was rocked near the end by a scandal known as Coingate. Coin dealer and top Republican fundraiser Tom Noe was awarded contracts to invest $50 million on behalf of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which he invested in—surprise—rare coins, an investment choice that would have made the state a laughingstock on its own. But it got worse: when it emerged that two coins worth $300,000 were missing, it became clear that Noe was running a money-laundering scheme. Ultimately, only $13 million was recovered, and Noe was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 2006; Taft was convicted of misdemeanors.
Democratic state Sen. Marc Dann, who had been a leading critic of state investment practices and led the charge against Noe, rode an anti-corruption wave into the attorney general's office, depicting himself as a strong voice against the old order. Once installed, he promptly began sexually harassing two staff members and having an extramarital affair with a third. The Cleveland Plain Dealer said Dann had "turned the attorney general's office into a laughingstock," and he was forced to resign after little more than a year in office.
Still not crooked enough? Two words: Jim Traficant.