Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Are the State Legislators More Corrupt than the Federal?

One of the arguments I often read opposing the repeal of the 17th Amendment, strangely enough comes by a variety of people from different ideologies, is that our state legislators are more corrupt than our elected federal legislators.

To me this sounds completely absurd. Yet time and time again I read in almost every comment portion of an article discussing the repeal of the 17th Amendment this very statement.

I have done a search through a couple of different scholarly search engines and I have not found any research to support this opinion. So where does this idea or opinion come from? It could possibly be one of the faulty arguments the progressives made during the run up to the enactment, and is still perpetuated in our government schools. Or people who are not in touch with their local elected officials make it. I’m not totally sure but one thing I know there is no evidence to support such a statement.

So what do you think; are your state legislators more corrupt than the federal?

At least from my vantage point in Ohio, I would say the state folks are no more or no less corrupt than our federal folks. Basically politics is politics. Yet when I consider the shenanigans in Washington, I’ve come to believe that the clowns in Congress are just better and more skilled at hiding said shenanigans. But again that’s just an opinion and I have no evidence to support this statement.

Again what do you think? Are your state officials more corrupt than the federal? I believe it’s important that we discuss this question because if this country is going to return to an era of limited government and state representation in the federal government we have to have the confidence that the local elected officials are competent, and at some level, looking out for our state and local communities, something most of us can agree has not happened in this country for a very long time…unless of course you live in the late John Murtha’s district.


Ray said...

Reasons in favor:
- States allow a diversity of choices. Don't like your state? Move to a different one. Federal law does not give you that choice.

- Most States HAVE to be fiscally responsible, no if ands or buts. Constitutionally balanced budgets; And no printing fiat money allowed.

- It's harder for a lobbyist to "influence" 7,400 State legislators in 50 locations than 535 congressmen in one location.

- By the same token, it is easier for a citizen to influence a Representative of 30,000 who lives down the street, than a Representative of 600,000 who lives 1,000 miles away.

- State Legislators are accessible. They shop at the grocery stores and live in the neighborhoods they govern. As a result, they are never "surprised" by their district's crime, education, or demographics. Federal Legislators are universally millionaires who live in more insulated worlds.

- State Legislators are accountable by challenges, both singularly and in masse'. In contrast, it takes a small miracle to defeat a well funded, entrenched U.S. Senator. Overthrowing 33 U.S. Senators in a general election is unheard of; 33 defeated Senators in a primary is science fiction.

- State Legislators are citizens first and politicans second. Many of them have "real" jobs.

- Regardless of political party, State legislatures always have a higher approval rating than the U.S. Congress.

- Perhaps we should reward authority to the legislative body that people think is working.

Brian said...


Great points; I am with you friend.

swiftfoxmark2 said...

I would argue that while state legislatures can be as corrupt as Federal legislatures, they are less likely to be influenced by lobbyist. It's about the scale. If you lobby a Congressperson you are more likely to get something done on a national scale rather than dealing with each and every individual state legislature. By placing more national influence on state legislatures, you decentralize lobbying and special interest groups.

I don't think there was a culture of special interests before the 17th amendment was passed. I could be wrong though, as I'm not currently looking it up.

Brian said...


You are correct. Zywicki has studied the special interest problem and there is clear evidence it has grown exponentially since the enacting of the 17th. See the link to his research along the right side of this page.

Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I think it's time we as a people start paying attention to what's going wit our elected representatives-like we were supposed t have been doing all along. Only when we stop consenting by slience will corruption be minimized.


danq said...

Politics is dirty business. There is no difference between a crooked state politician and the same crooked politician just elected to the federal government. To claim that state politicians are somehow less crooked is ridiculous, and it has nothing to do with repealing the 17th.

swiftfoxmark2 said...


I agree with your assessment. There is plenty of corruption at the local and state level so to argue that local and state legislatures are more corrupt than Federal legislatures is a non sequitur.

As an aside, the problem with the perception of corruption in politics that people often blame the companies and organizations who bribe the politicians. Nobody ever considers that the businessperson is paying the "bribe" out of extortion. After all, the politician is the one who holds the power. Why wouldn't he or she demand some kind of benefit?

JohnJ said...

Are state politicians less corrupt than federal politicians? Yes, and this is easily demonstrable.

State politicians have a smaller electorate, and are, of necessity, more accessible to the voters. State politicians are far from perfect, but they are clearly less corrupt than federal politicians.

However, even those state politicians who are corrupt still respond to the incentive of keeping power close. As such, they would still fulfill the role of keeping as much power out of Washington as possible, and this would ahve the result of limiting corruption in Washington (because Washington is corrupt due to the fact that the politicians sent there are increasingly powerful. Special interests naturally target the most powerful politicians who can get them their special favors.)

As a result of this, a properly federalist Senate would still force limits on the federal government. Please read Federalist 63 & 64 for an explanation of this if you want more information.

Idahoser said...

even if they are: they would still prefer to keep and recover power for themselves than to have it stolen by DC.

danq said...

JohnJ, good argument, though it depends on how many corporations/industries have interest in the state in question.

For example, the oil and mining industries, would make some states more corrupt than others with regards to those industries.

Other industries, such as entertainment/media or pharmaceuticals, would be interested in favorable legislation in all states.