It’s a shocker, possibly funny, and has the potential to put every good government reform effort into neutral by giving the impression that New Jersey might be too clean.
Fortunately, Jonathan Weil over at Bloomberg.com also had a little trouble swallowing this news - might have even choked on it a bit - and dug a little deeper into how NJ managed to capture the top spot.
Apparently, we neither bribed nor threatened anyone.
But the Center For Public Integrity could have a done a slightly more thorough job.
As Weil points out, NJ scored 96% ( a grade of A) concerning the category “State Pension Fund Management”. This grade is pretty suspicious since the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the State of New Jersey with fraud in 2010.
According to the NYT article on the subject, “…the action was its first ever against a state, and only its second against any government over the handling of a public pension fund.”
The NYT article summed up the charges reporting that, “The commission said that from 2001 to 2007, New Jersey claimed to have money set aside in a “benefit enhancement fund” as part of a “five-year plan” to pay for new benefits for teachers and general state employees. In fact, the fund was an accounting illusion and no such money was available.
That’s a remarkable turnaround when it seems that no one was ultimately held responsible, and the SEC lawsuit was settled with a cease and desist order.
The category of “State Insurance Commissions” earned NJ a score of 88%, a B+, even though the NJ State Comptroller issued a report recently indicating that many of NJ’s 566 municipalities are not necessarily getting a fair shake on the ever increasing insurance premiums they pay.
And now another glimpse inside NJ’s incestous insurance industry… “State Comptroller Matthew Boxer yesterday issued a scathing report on patronage abuses and insurance practices at the Delaware River Port Authority. These include payments totaling $455,000 to South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross’s firm and an associated broker that a New Jersey insurance company characterized as a “referral fee” for lining up the DRPA account.”
The study conducted by the Center For Public Integrity was understandably completed on a tight budget. The methodology involved an experienced reporter hired to fill out the 330 questionnaire used to determine the scores, and this information was reviewed by another editor.
The individual state contact was to research, gather data, and then complete the questionnaire. It’s not unreasonable to think this methodology leaves a lot of room for subjective, abstract, perhaps even illusionary and/or delusionary judgement calls.
Determining a level of transparency was a major factor in many areas of the study, but it seems transparency may not be a major concern at the Center For Public Integrity. Their posted piece, New Jersey Best Score In The Country, which touts the data and scoring of New Jersey by the Center For Public Integrity was authored by none other than the person responsible for collecting the data on New Jersey……That’s a fact worth being transparent about…