How Ill is Illinois?

How Ill is Illinois?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Hamlet, Act I, scene IV, line 99.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested on federal corruption charges.

Q:  Just how corrupt is the Prairie State?
A: Compared to what?

USA Today‘s John Fritze reports that over a dozen states are even more corrupt, based on U.S. Department of Justice statistics for federal public corruption convictions. This measure omits state- and local-level corruption convictions, indictments not resulting in convictions, arrests not resulting in indictments, and situations with corruption so endemic that no one bothers (or dares) to bring it to official attention.

Selective inattention and selective prosecution are not the only issues with this type of analysis; it ignores variables such as percentage of public officials in state populations, population size and density, and whether convicted officials were in elected, appointed, or civil service positions in municipal, county, state, or federal government.

Virginia  readers: Don’t get all sanctimonious, now. According to the figures cited, the Old Dominion is just as corrupt as the Land o’ Lincoln. You too, Washingtonians: The District of Columbia wasn’t included in the ranking.

The DOJ Top Twenty Corrupt US States
Basis: Per capita rate of federal public corruption convictions*
(source: USA Today)


  1. North Dakota
  2. Louisiana
  3. Alaska
  4. Mississippi
  5. Montana
  6. Kentucky
  7. Alabama
  8. Delaware + South Dakota (tie)
  9. New Jersey + Ohio (tie)
  10. Florida + Pennsylvania (tie)
  11. West Virginia
  12. Hawaii
  13. Tennessee
  14. Illinois + Virginia (tie)
  15. New York
  16. Connecticut
  17. Oklahoma
  18. Arkansas
  19. Missouri + Wyoming (tie)
  20. Maryland + Massachusetts (tie)

* Convictions per 100,000 population to 1 decimal place

Want the big picture? Get it from the DOJ Public Integrity Section.

Compare it with this analysis of previous figures.

 How corrupt is your state? find it on the handy State Corruption USA Map developed by Juan Thomassie and Joshua Hatch of USA Today.

 As of this moment, Illinois Governor Blagojevich hasn’t been indicted or convicted. Can he still govern?

Ask the Bard:

HORATIO:   He waxes desperate with imagination.
MARCELLUS:  Let’s follow. ’tis not fit thus to obey him.
 Hamlet, Act I, scene IV, lines 96, 97.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Want the complete list of state corruption rankings? Contact NotionsCapital.

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