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Public Corruption Risk High in Kentucky

As is often the case with government reform efforts, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted ethics laws in response to an embarrassing scandal. “BOPTROT” was a federal investigation of the Kentucky legislature in the 1990s, so-named because it involved a powerful legislative committee, Business Organizations and Professions, and horse racing. It exposed 15 state lawmakers who sold their votes, some for as little as $100.

Following BOPTROT, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted laws restricting interactions between legislators and lobbyists. The reforms also required financial disclosure by legislators and detailed disclosure by lobbyists of their spending, whom they represent and how they are compensated.

Despite the post-BOPTROT reforms, this state of 4.4 million residents earned a grade of C− and a numerical rating of 71 for how well it ensures accountability in government, according to the State Integrity Investigation, a collaborative project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. Those scores rank Kentucky 19th among the 50 states.

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