America's Worst Governors
CREW’s Worst Governors report details the unethical and incompetent actions of 11 governors who pride their self-interests over their states'.
CREW reviewed the job performance of all 50 of our nation’s governors to determine which are the worst. We considered whether governors had violated ethics, campaign finance and personal financial disclosure rules as well as whether they had complied with state transparency laws. It is nearly impossible to compare governors’ adherence to the laws because state rules and laws vary so widely. Each state has its own ethical rules and standards. Requirements regarding disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures and personal finances differ significantly as do state open records laws. Some states make much more information publicly available than others.
Despite these difficulties, CREW was been able to reach some general conclusions about which governors violated agreed upon notions of competence, transparency and integrity.
Below, you will find a short summary of each Worst Governor's outrageous actions with links to each governor's full report. Note: The list of governors is unranked, and appears in alphabetical order below. Press coverage of CREW's report can be found here.
America's Worst Governors
- Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS)
- Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-RI)
- Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV)
- Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
- Gov. David Paterson (D-NY)
- Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA)
- Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)
- Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
- Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
- Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA)
Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS)
Haley Barbour (R-MS) was elected governor of Mississippi in 2003, and reelected in 2007. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2011.
- Allegedly laundered campaign contributions
- Refused to accept federal stimulus funds to expand unemployment insurance
- Used his position to enrich himself and his family members
Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-RI)
Donald L. Carcieri (R-RI) was elected governor of Rhode Island in 2002 and reelected in 2006. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
- Hired his niece in violation of Rhode Island’s anti-nepotism laws
- Failed to adequately manage his state’s logistics and staffing needs
- Violated campaign finance laws by soliciting subordinates, accepting luxury gifts and missing a filing deadline
- Impeded the public’s access to information and blocked pro-transparency legislation
Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV)
Jim Gibbons (R-NV) was elected governor of Nevada in 2006 and is running for reelection this year.
- Violated campaign finance law by accepting illegal corporate donations
- Allegedly assaulted a waitress
- Overlooked ethical lapses of his appointee
- Misused state resources in pursuit of an extra-marital affair
- Endangered his state’s economy by threatening to reject federal stimulus funds
- Has been investigated for his conduct as a member of Congress
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA)
Bobby Jindal (R-LA) was elected governor of Louisiana in 2007 and is running for reelection in 2011.
- Prevented the public release of government records and has fought legislation to make government more transparent
- Weakened the authority of the state ethics board
- Refused to accept federal stimulus funds to expand unemployment insurance and to fund other important programs
- Rewarded campaign donors with government jobs and contracts
- Has been fined for ethics violations
Gov. David Paterson (D-NY)
David Paterson (D-NY) assumed the office of governor of New York on March 17, 2008, following the resignation of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. He is not running for reelection.
- Accepted improper gifts
- Testified falsely under oath
- Acted with willful opacity in consequential state matters
- Shielded a top aide from assault allegations
Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA)
Sonny Perdue (R-GA) was elected governor of Georgia in 2002 and reelected in 2006. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
- Accepted gifts and travel from lobbyists
- Violated campaign finance laws
- Failed to file complete personal financial disclosure information and supported a tax loophole that benefitted him personally
- Allegedly thwarted an investigation by the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs
- Appointed a business associate to a state position
Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)
Rick Perry (R-TX) assumed the office of governor of Texas in 2000 when George W. Bush became president. He was elected to a full four-year term in 2002, reelected in 2006 and is running again in 2010.
- Allegedly disregarded campaign finance laws and aided a business that was especially generous to his campaign
- Refused to operate transparently, and has blocked access to information related to a death penalty case
- Rejected federal stimulus funds in a manner that appeared to put partisan politics ahead of the interests of the citizens of Texas
- Has perpetuated the revolving door between government and special interests
- Accepted travel and campaign donations from a business that received benefits from his official actions
- Used campaign funds for a personal trip with questionable relevance to his campaign for office
Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
Bill Richardson (D-NM) was elected governor of New Mexico in 2002 and reelected in 2006. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
- Used state investments to benefit political allies
- Allowed pay-to-play scandals to plague his administration
- Rewarded close associates with state positions or benefits, including providing a longtime friend and political supporter with a costly state contract
- Failed to make state government more transparent
Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Mike Rounds (R-SD) was elected governor of South Dakota in 2002 and was reelected in 2006. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
- Resisted efforts to promote government transparency and frustrated public access to information
- Used his office for personal benefit
- Abused state authority for the benefit of friends and family
- Used a state plane to travel to his son's basketball games
Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
Mark Sanford (R-SC) was elected governor of South Carolina in 2002 and was reelected in 2006. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
- Abused his office for his personal benefit and the benefit of his friends
- Violated campaign finance laws by failing to report in-kind contributions and improperly converting campaign funds for personal use
- Subordinated his responsibilities to his pursuit of an extramarital affair
- Endangered his state’s economy by threatening to refuse stimulus funds
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) was elected governor of California in 2003 and was reelected in 2006. Under the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
- Used non-profit and campaign funds for personal benefit
- Built cozy relationships with special interests
- Created conflicts of interest by accepting a consulting position and doing state business with a company staffed by his former campaign aides
- Provided state jobs to friends with dubious qualifications
- Forced air pollution employees who were trying to protect the environment out of office
- Vetoed bills to improve transparency in hospitals at the behest of powerful special interests