La. ranks 6th in nation on ethics list

Louisiana ranked sixth on an integrity list compiled by a Chicago watchdog group.

The Better Government Association gave the state marks for laws governing freedom of information, open meetings and conflicts of interest. Louisiana’s lowest mark was in whistleblower protection.

On overall integrity, the state finished behind Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois, Nebraska and California.

No state received a score above 70 percent, with the association stating that Rhode Island, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana “aren’t commonly viewed as paragons of good government.”

Those states likely rank higher on the national Integrity Index, according to the Better Government Association news release, because years of corruption and embarrassing scandals led to the adoption of stricter safeguards and more comprehensive sunshine laws.

The index measured ethics laws and government conduct. The result: The national average was 55 percent.

“Our findings show that current laws in most states are woefully inadequate, locking citizens out or forcing them to jump through unnecessary hoops as they attempt to exercise their fundamental democratic right to keep an eye on government,” Andy Shaw, the organization’s president and ceo, said in a prepared statement.

Shortly after entering office, Gov. Bobby Jindal called a special session on the state’s ethics code. He set a number of goals, including forcing elected officials to file personal financial disclosure reports, eliminating legislators’ special access to coveted sports tickets and preventing lawmakers from doing business with the state.

Jindal successfully pushed legislation that requires all elected officials to detail their financial holdings and obligations. He also backed measures that changed how authorities pursue allegations of ethics code violations.

Jindal said Tuesday in a prepared statement that Louisiana moved up from 46th on the Integrity Index before he took office.

“Years ago, Louisiana was known best for its political corruption. Now, we’re known for one of the strongest business climates in the South and in the nation. That’s because when we took office, we immediately got to work on reforming our state’s image by passing some of the nation’s strongest ethics laws. The results speak for themselves,” Jindal said.

The Better Government Association think tank report is funded by large accounting and law firms. It co-authored the report with Alper Services LLC, a Chicago financial services firm.