U.S.

Which State Government Is Most Embarrassing?

We at NEWSWEEK are fans of competition, so we put it to a test: which is actually the nation's most dysfunctional, unethical, and corrupt state politically? The contenders are many, but we narrowed it down to seven states, on the scientific basis of where our staffers come from or have lived. Lucky for us (and you), we seem to disproportionately hail from some of the more unsavory states in the union. Unfortunately, we don't have anyone from Alaska on staff, and it surely deserves an honorable mention for its recent history.

So which state is the most embarrassing politically? We couldn't decide, but we invite you to read our arguments, below, and vote in the comments.

The Fall of the Empire State
Don't blame David Paterson; he's just a typical New York politician.
By Ben Adler
When I was in high school in Brooklyn, we had a nickname for the back room at a nearby diner. We called it "the mafia room," because smoking cigarettes was allowed there. Little did we know: a Village Voice article years later revealed that that very room was where the Kings County Democratic Executive Committee would gather to decide who would be the local judges on the basis of who had the most sterling legal credentials. I'm joking. They handed out judgeships as pure patronage for whichever holder of a J.D. had accrued the most political chits.

Heartland Values  
It's practically mandatory to indict governors in the Land of Lincoln.
By Jonathan Alter
I'm not prepared to say that Illinois takes the gold in every corruption category…But Illinois has a special place in the Hall of Shame going back to the 19th century.

Big Easy Money
In Louisiana, the nation's most corrupt state, fraud is a form of entertainment.
By Adam B. Kushner
The challenge for my home state of Louisiana is not how to prove its mettle in the corruption stakes, but how to compress, into a few homely paragraphs, a raft of evidence that would crash your browser.

The Swamps of Jersey
The Garden State's real bosses—bootleggers, cross-dressers, organ traffickers—put Tony Soprano to shame.
By Andrew Romano
New Jersey is famous for being the most densely populated state in the country, but it's also the most densely corrupt. And I mean "dense" in both senses of the word, that is, "consisting of component parts that are closely compacted together" and "delightfully idiotic."

Palmetto Politics
South Carolina: We've got Mark Sanford and Joe Wilson. And don't even get us started on history.
By Carl Sullivan
"Yet another reason to be proud of my home state." I've lost count of the number of times I've made that post to Facebook, followed by a link to the latest salacious political story emanating out of South Carolina.

The Most 'Per Capita' Corruption
Rhode Island's politicians have wowed political junkies by blatantly taking bribes in office, working with the mob, and serving jail time.
By Nancy Cook
Rhode Island may not have the most corruption in absolute terms, but it deserves to win because of its debacles per capita. The state has just over a million residents, but if you ask any of them to name the top five worst political scandals, they laugh. There are just too many.

'Free Traficant!'
In the Buckeye State, even the reformers are corrupt—and the populist heroes are federal criminals.
By David A. Graham
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.

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