Editor’s Note: Visit our Accountability Project topic page to learn more about the investigation.

Not failing, but not passing with flying colors, either.

That’s one way of looking at how Hawaii is doing when it comes to government transparency and anti-corruption efforts, according to a new 50-state assessment.

Hawaii earned an overall C in the data-driven study, which evaluated laws and practices across 14 categories ranging from executive accountability to access to public records. Hawaii earned C’s and and D’s in most categories.

But even with an overall C grade, Hawaii ranks 10th best among states along with Massachusetts, Illinois, Rhode Island.

Hawaii may have some good laws in place protecting against corruption. But the study found when it comes to enforcing those laws, Hawaii ranks near the bottom, with only 6 other states that are worse in their enforcement of accountability laws.

In other words, there’s a big difference between what the law says in Hawaii and what is done on the ground.

Here’s a complete report card showing what grade Hawaii earned in each category, and where we stack up compared to the rest of the nation.

Overall Grade: C. We rank 10th out of 50.

Public Access to Information: This category evaluated what information is legally accessible, and how easily citizens can actually get it. Hawaii earned a D, which puts us 23rd out of 50 states.

Political Financing: How transparent is the financing of electoral campaigns at the federal, state and local levels? Are there limits on individual donations to political parties and candidates, and are those limits effective? Hawaii earned a B, ranking us 3rd best with a score of 86 out of 100.

Executive Accountability: When it comes to laws and guidelines meant to ensure that governors and cabinet-level officials can be held accountable for their actions, Hawaii earned a C+, ranking us 8th, tied with Connecticut and North Carolina.

Legislative Accountability: Do lawmakers accept inappropriate gifts meant to influence them? Do they leave government service and immediately take jobs that involve lobbying their former colleagues? Hawaii earned a C- in this category, which evaluates the laws and procedures that are intended to ensure that lawmakers best serve their constituents and not their own personal political interests. Hawaii ranked 14th out of 50.

Judicial Accountability: Hawaii earned a D+ in this category, which evaluated how accountable and transparent judicial officials and their staffs are. Questions included whether there are laws preventing nepotism and cronyism amongst members of the judicial branch, and whether the financial disclosures of judiciary officials are easily accessible. Hawaii ranked 31st out of 50 states.

State Budget Process: Is Hawaii’s state budget process open to the public or conducted behind closed doors? Hawaii earned a D. We tied for 38th place with Georgia.

State Civil Service Management: Another D for Hawaii, this time in a category evaluating state hiring and firing regulations, nepotism and cronyism rules, whistleblower protections, and other work place guidelines for state employees. A large factor in Hawaii’s grade is the fact that the state does not have an anti-nepotism law. Hawaii tied for 26th with Illinois.

Procurement: Are conflict of interest laws enforced and is the government watching the assets, incomes and spending habits of public procurement officials? Hawaii earned a B+ in this category dealing wtih the purchase of goods and services. We were tied for 12th with four other states.

Internal Auditing: The strong independence of Hawaii’s state auditor and the significant barriers to her removal are bright spots for Hawaii. The state earned an A with a score of 92. Yet that still leaves Hawaii in the middle of the pack in 22nd place.

Lobbying Disclosure: Do lobbyists file regular spending reports and how detailed are they? And are penalties imposed on those who don’t follow lobbying disclosure rules and requirements? Hawaii earned a D- in this category, ranking us 30th out of 50.

State Pension Fund Management: Hawaii earned a D+ when it came to the management of the state’s defined pension plan for state workers. This category looked at how pension investments are made, and who makes them. Hawaii ranked 22nd.

Ethics Enforcement: Hawaii was ranked 12th in ethics enforcement, yet we earned a C. Forty-one states require external oversight of their procedures through an Ethics Commission — Hawaii is one of them. But the commission is unable to regularly audit the more than 1,800 financial disclosures it receives each year, only a fraction of which are public.

State Insurance Commission: Hawaii earned an F in this category, which evaluates the state’s mechanism for regulating the insurance industry to protect consumers. Instead of a commission, Hawaii has one insurance commissioner, who serves at the will of the governor. Financial disclosure forms of the commissioner’s senior staff are not publicly available. We ranked 37th out of 50.

Redistricting: Hawaii earned an A, ranking us 14th out of 50 states, for the procedures governing the redrawing of political boundaries for congressional and legislative districts. Questions in this category looked at how much input the public has in the process.

Read our complete coverage:

To learn more, go to the State Integrity Investigation website.

About the Author