The article, which bases its claims on the US Justice Department report below, ranks the states based on the number of public corruption convictions per 100,000 people from 2002 to 2011. North Dakota ranks second, but there are some major problems which make the way this report is being reported more than a little irresponsible.
First, North Dakota gets hit hard for having a tiny population. Just a few convictions quickly moves the state to the top of the list.
Second, if you’re wondering why you haven’t been reading headlines about dozens of public corruption cases in the headlines over the last year, it’s because the hotbeds of corruption in the state are on the Indian reservations. That’s tragic, both in terms of the plight of our Native American neighbors and the fact that those of us not on the reservation don’t seem to care much, but it’s also not the indictment of North Dakota state government some would make it out to be.
To provide some context, consider that from 2009 to 2012 crime (not necessarily public corruption but still) on Indian reservations spiked some 54%.
This is also why you see other states not typically thought of as corrupt – states like South Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma – near the top of the list. All of the states have high concentrations of Native Americans and, unfortunately, tribal governments.
It’s worth noting that in North Dakota, just in the last year, we’ve seen tribal corruption scandals on the Standing Rock reservation and at the Spirit Lake Reservation.
But here’s a challenge for those contending that this report is a serious indictment of North Dakota’s non-tribal government: Name a single non-tribal public official convicted of corruption in the last decade.