Reporter: Rhode Island One of the Most Corrupt

Rhode Island technically may not be the most corrupt state in the Union, but it probably has the most corruption per capita, according to the below Newsweek article—well, that ought to make us feel better.

The Most ‘Per Capita’ Corrupt
Rhode Island may have slightly more than 1 million residents, but its politicians have wowed political junkies by blatantly taking bribes in office, working with the mob, and serving jail time.

By Nancy Cook | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Mar 11, 2010

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 senior reporter Nancy Cook argues for Rhode Island, where she lived while working as a reporter for NPR station WRNI.

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 slightly more than 1 million residents, but if you ask any of them to name the top five worst political scandals, they laugh. There are just too many.

Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Providence’s longest-serving mayor, is the most prominent example for outsiders. He returned to the state in May 2007, after serving more than four years in a federal prison for a racketeering-conspiracy conviction (in other words, running a criminal enterprise out of City Hall. Former governor Edward DiPrete also spent one year in jail after pleading guilty to 18 corruption charges that he took bribes from state contractors while in office. The Ocean State tradition of political scandal isn’t limited to executive officers—just look at the legislature and court system. Former speaker of the House and chief justice of the state Supreme Court Joseph A. Bevilacqua resigned in 1986 during impeachment proceedings, in which investigators alleged that the then-judge had strong ties to the mob.

But the craziest tic about Rhode Island is not this list of corruption but the pervasive attitude of long-time, native residents. If a legislator or judge hires his son, cousin, or mistress for a state job that pays more than $100,000, people nod. Aw, they say, that’s just the way business is done here.

Of course, now that The Hummel Report has launched, there sure is a lot more we could add to this list. Central Falls, for one, comes to mind.


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