Read the Worst Governors in America Report
CREW’s second report on the nation’s worst governors includes 18 — six of whom are the worst of the lot, six others whose conduct raises serious questions about their leadership, and six others who engaged in some action suspect enough to suggest their decisions merit close scrutiny.
Some governors on the list essentially turned their authority and regulatory agendas over to special interests. Others abused their office in return for gifts and campaign contributions. Many appointed donors to key positions and gutted transparency measures. All failed to live up to the public trust.
Until publishing its first report on the nation’s worst governors in 2010, CREW primarily focused on the ethics of federal government officials. CREW chose to look at governors because their actions have a major impact on public welfare, but state ethics issues often escape attention.
Now, with Washington mired in partisan gridlock, much of the legislative action takes place atthe state level. As a result, it is critical that governors’ conduct be beyond reproach.
CREW assessed the governors based on the following criteria:
- Corruption: Has there been outright corruption? Did a governor violate state ethics laws or campaign finance laws, or did the governor use his or her position to influence the awarding of state contracts?
- Transparency: Did a governor block access to records that state law deems discoverable? Similarly, did the governor oppose legislation to make public records more accessible or promote measures to make government less transparent? Finally, did the governor take steps to foil transparency, such as, for instance, using private e-mail accounts for public business?
- Partisan politics: Did a governor appear to put partisan politics above the interests of the citizens of his or her state?
- Pressuring public officials: Has a governor attempted to pressure or intimidate other state officials in an inappropriate manner?
- Cronyism: Did a governor abuse his or her position to reward family, friends, or major donors with state employment or other benefits?
- Self-enrichment: Did a governor use his or her position for personal financial enrichment?
- Scandal: Was a governor involved in a personal scandal that clearly distracted from his or her ability to govern effectively?
- Mismanagement: Did a governor fail to discharge his or her duties responsibly and in the public interest?
CREW attempted to confine research to the governors’ actions while in office or running for office. In a few cases, however, investigations into a governor’s actions before taking office raised substantial questions or have had an impact on the governors’ ability to govern, forcing exceptions.