Is NJ the Most Corrupt State in America? [AUDIO]
As the Bridgegate investigation continues, South Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews has announced he's stepping down while a House Ethics Committee investigates his campaign spending, and Trenton Mayor Tony Mack awaits the verdict in his federal corruption trial.
For many Garden State residents, it seems like business as usual.
With such a long and rich history of wrongdoing by public officials, "New Jersey might be nicknamed the Corruption State, or at least the Strong-Arm State," at least in the opinion of Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley.
"There's something about being in public service, generally, that offers you temptations to do things you probably shouldn't do," Woolley said. "Wherever there is a lot of local control and a lot of money flowing through the system, there's going to be a lot of temptation and a lot of people wandering into grey areas and then into illegal areas. It's as if many of our public figures are really in real estate development rather than public service."
Woolley said it's true that states like Illinois, Louisiana and even Massachusetts also have ethically-challenged politicians at every level, but New Jersey is right up there at the top of the list.
According to the professor, New Jersey residents have become so used to wrongdoing by public officials that sometimes, if someone is accused of something, "the facts matter less than the perception -- and so that works for some politicians and it works against some politicians," Woolley said. "Even if you haven't done something wrong, or gravely wrong, your reputation can be damaged."