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No joke: N.J. leads nation’s anti-corruption efforts, study says

Somewhere, Tony Soprano is having a good, long laugh.

New Jersey is a state whose reputation for corruption has been immortalized in film, TV and in song by Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi alike. So there’s just one question after learning that a new study puts New Jersey at the top of a State Integrity Investigation’s ranking of the nation’s states in terms of transparency and accountability to citizens.

Who’d officials pay off?

Actually, all bad jokes aside, New Jersey’s long history of corruption has led to a litany of reforms in recent years. And that effort is showing signs of progress, according to the joint study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity.

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The study compared all 50 states. No one received an A.

“In every state, there’s room to improve the ethics laws, the level of transparency on government proceedings, the disclosure of information, and -- most importantly -- the oversight of these laws,” Caitlin Ginley, a project manager on the study, told the Associated Press.

Only five states got rankings of B. And at the top of that heap? New Jersey. It got a B-plus, with an overall score of 87 out of a possible 100.

“It’s nice to be recognized for being ahead of the curve,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney who is credited with cracking down on corruption. He told the Associated Press that “government operates and behaves better when it’s open and transparent, and taxpayers feel informed and a part of the process when they can see how their money is spent, who is getting contracts and who’s on the payroll and such.”

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The other states rewarded with a B include Connecticut (B, 86), Washington state (B-minus, 83), California (B-minus, 81) and Nebraska (B-minus, 80), said the AP. Eight states got a failing grade: North Dakota, Michigan, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota and Georgia.

The study involved reporters in each state who researched 330 corruption risk indicators across 14 government categories, including access to information, campaign finance, executive accountability and ethics enforcement, insurance commissions, and redistricting.

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