An interesting report (Source = CNN) came out confirming that the states and local governments are more corrupt than the federal government.
The top 5 (in order) most ethical states were New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California, and Nebraska. Georgia was the worst state, followed by South Dakota, Wyoming, Virgina, Maine, South Carolina, North Dakota and Michigan, all of who scored an "F".
It blamed lack of enforcement as the problem. I see this as a symptom of the real problem - lack of qualified, ethical people running government. Government has to compete with business to get the best and the brightest. If you are an ethical person, business offers much greater financial rewards - but not if you are an unethical person.
Moreover, if you are an ethical and well qualified person, you typically try to move from local to state to federal government as fast as you can. No person wants to be a state assemblyman when they could be a congressman.
Not all people in local government are unethical, but across the board they are usually less competent than their federal counterparts. With the exception of Governor, pretty much every in state government is someone that is not good enough to make it in federal politics.
It's very similar to a sports franchise - the people in the minor leagues are not up to the quality of the major leagues, with a few exceptions.
That means the laws they pass tend to be worse, and they let unethical activities slide. Enough of them are unethical that they will create loopholes that the ethical ones don't catch.
So, how can we clean up state governments - keeping in mind that you can't expect them to clean themselves up? Another issue is that the Constitution limits the scope of federal laws. The federal government can't just pass laws about what state assemblyman can do. Nor can the FBI investigate merely local level corruption.
Well, one trick the Federal government does is refuse to give money unless the state acts like a grownup. That is how the Federal government promulgated a national 55 mph speed limit, in the 1974 National Maximum Speed Law. Similarly, it is how Texas is currently being punished for refusing to give Planned Parenthood money for non-abortion related activities.
I propose that for a state to get any federal money granted to a State or local government, the state must demonstrate their ethic rules have teeth - and actually enforce them. All reports must be investigated, and all confirmed cases must be penalized. If less than 50% of reported cases can go unpenalized (Georgia hasn't issued a single penalty since 1999 and has over 650 reports in just 2 years), then the state must prove that each and every single reported case was innocent.
This is on the light side. It will reduce corruption some, but not elminate it.
Now for something far more effective
Stop printing cash. Say goodbye to dollar bills completely. We can keep the coins (dump the pennies -put lincoln on a new $3 coin), but no more paper. Move to a cashless soceity, powered by credit cards, checks, wire transfers, Paypal, and similar accounts. Keep the coins for vending machines at least until we replace the paper readers for credit card readers. At last people will actually use dollar coins.
Sweden is having great success moving towards that kind of economy. (Sweden Source). They are not all the way there yet - still 3% cash, as opposed to 7% in the US. But it is possible.
As a result, they have seen crime drop significantly. No more bank robberies, muggings, etc. No more shady bags or envelopes full of cash delivered to politicians in smoke filled rooms.
I'd love to see someone try to give a bag full of silver dollars as payments. Or worse, stealing it. They'd break their backs trying to move $100.
As a side effect, we save all the excessive money we spend on printing and destroying paper money (It is far less efficient than coins).