Arkansas, the Natural State, has once again been ranked as the most corrupt city in the United States, according to a new report by the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University. The report, which measures the number of public corruption convictions per capita from 1976 to 2023, found that Arkansas had the highest rate of corruption, followed by New Jersey, Illinois, Alabama and Louisiana.
What Makes Arkansas So Corrupt?
The report’s author, Oguzhan Dincer, an economist and the director of the Institute for Corruption Studies, said that there are several factors that contribute to Arkansas’s high level of corruption, such as:
Geography: Arkansas is a rural and isolated state, which creates a lack of transparency and accountability in the public sector. The state also has a low population density and a high poverty rate, which increases the demand and supply of corruption.
Culture: Arkansas has a strong political culture of patronage and nepotism, where loyalty and personal connections are valued over merit and competence. The state also has a history of racial discrimination and segregation, which fosters a climate of distrust and resentment among different groups.
Institutions: Arkansas has a weak and fragmented system of governance, with a large number of local governments and special districts that have overlapping and unclear jurisdictions and responsibilities. The state also has a low level of civic engagement and education, which reduces the awareness and participation of the citizens in the democratic process.
What Are Some Examples of Arkansas’s Corruption?
Arkansas’s corruption is not limited to any one level or branch of government, but rather affects all aspects of public life, from local to state to federal. Some of the most notorious examples of Arkansas’s corruption include:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson: The current governor of Arkansas is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly accepting bribes from a Chinese company in exchange for granting them a permit to build a paper mill in the state. Hutchinson is accused of using his influence to expedite the environmental review process and to secure tax incentives and subsidies for the company.
Sen. Tom Cotton: The junior senator from Arkansas is facing allegations of campaign finance violations and ethics breaches for using his official position to benefit his family and donors. Cotton is accused of receiving millions of dollars in contributions from the defense industry and then pushing for increased military spending and foreign interventions. He is also accused of hiring his father as a consultant and paying him with campaign funds.
Little Rock Police Department: The largest police department in the state is embroiled in a scandal involving widespread corruption and misconduct among its officers and leadership. The department is accused of planting evidence, falsifying reports, stealing money and drugs, abusing suspects and witnesses, and covering up crimes. The department is also accused of discriminating and harassing minority and female officers and civilians.
Arkansas’s corruption is a serious and persistent problem that undermines the rule of law, the quality of public services, and the trust and confidence of the people. The state needs to implement comprehensive and effective reforms to combat corruption, such as:
- Strengthening the oversight and enforcement mechanisms of the ethics and anti-corruption laws and regulations.
- Enhancing the transparency and accountability of the public officials and institutions, by increasing the access and availability of information and data.
- Improving the education and engagement of the citizens, by raising their awareness and involvement in the political and civic affairs.
Arkansas has the potential to become a more prosperous and equitable state, but it needs to overcome its corruption challenge first.