America’s Most Corrupt City Is New Jersey

New Jersey has been identified as having the highest rate of corruption in the United States, according to a recent report by the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University. This report ranks states based on the number of public corruption convictions per capita from 1976 to 2023. New Jersey led the list, followed by Illinois, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi​​.

Several factors contribute to New Jersey’s high level of corruption. The state’s dense population and ethnic diversity create more opportunities and incentives for corruption, as different groups vie for scarce resources and political power.

Additionally, New Jersey has a long-standing culture of corruption, dating back to the colonial era. This has been reinforced by media portrayals in movies and TV shows. Furthermore, low voter turnout in New Jersey indicates a lack of civic engagement and accountability among citizens, reducing the likelihood of electing honest leaders and increasing the influence of special interests and money in politics​​.

The corruption in New Jersey is widespread, affecting various levels and branches of government. Notable examples include the indictment of Senator Bob Menendez on federal bribery charges in 2023 and the conviction of five former Paterson police officers as part of a corruption investigation by the FBI. Additionally, several former and current public officials and political candidates were charged with taking bribes in 2019​​.

The Institute for Corruption Studies conducts surveys of news reporters covering state politics and investigative reporters covering corruption issues to construct perception-based indices of illegal and legal corruption across American states.

According to their surveys, illegal corruption in government is not perceived to be more than “very common” in any of the governmental branches in most states, including New Jersey. Legal corruption in the legislative branch is particularly concerning in almost all states, with New Jersey among those where it is perceived to be “very common” or “extremely common”​​​​​​.

When considering the aggregate scores of all three government branches, New Jersey, along with states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and New York, ranks in the highest quartiles of both illegal and legal corruption. This places New Jersey among the most corrupt states in America, based on the perceptions of reporters covering these issues​​.

These findings highlight the pervasive nature of corruption in New Jersey, affecting various aspects of public life and governance. Addressing this issue requires a multi-faceted approach involving the public, media, and law enforcement, aiming for increased awareness, transparency, and accountability​

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