Off-road corruption

A paper written by economist Filipe R. Campante of the Harvard Kennedy School looks at corruption in state capitals around the country and finds that the more isolated a state capital, the more corrupt public officials working in that capital are.

“We show that isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption across US states, in line with the view that this isolation reduces accountability…” the author writes.

The reason? One theory is that there is less media coverage in those capitals.

Because academicians aren’t prone to make anything accessible, particularly their government funded research, I haven’t been able to get the whole paper. But Juneau, the only state capital not on the road system, didn’t make the corruption cut. That’s probably because the research was conducted by looking at the number of federal convictions for public corruption between 1976 and 2002. Alaska likely would have made the list had the research gone past 2006. And it might have added more fuel to the capital move debate that’s been raging for decades.

As it is, from 1976 until 2002, Springfield, Illinois and Pierre, South Dakota were the place where shady politicians tend to hang.

Another interesting point: many state capitals were constructed in isolated places in order to get away from the influence of industry. However, as the author points out, the more isolated the capital, the more money goes into campaigns.

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