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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Corruption in Isolated State Capitals

In The San Diego Union-Tribune, Christopher Cadelago reports:
California’s capital is about 85 miles from San Francisco, 385 miles from Los Angeles and 500 miles from San Diego. Does that remoteness make Sacramento susceptible to greater levels of corruption?
Researchers out with a new study seem to think so.
In “Isolated Capital Cities, Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from U.S. States,” Filipe R. Campante and Quoc-Anh Do argue isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption. California along with Florida, Nevada and Texas are listed as among the least concentrated states. [See an earlier post on an earlier version of this paper.]
Campante, of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and Do, a Paris-based economist, also contend that the various mechanisms for holding state politicians accountable are similarly affected by the spatial distribution of population.
“Newspapers provide greater coverage of state politics when their audiences are more concentrated around the capital, and voter turnout in state elections is greater in places that are closer to the capital,” the researchers argue.
The paper provides a telling example from Massachusetts and New York:
Both states have witnessed recent corruption scandals that led to the indictment and eventual conviction of two very prominent state legislators: former Senate Majority leader Joseph Bruno, in New York, and former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, in Massachusetts. We can learn about the scope of media accountability in both states by looking at these scandals and how they were covered by the New York City and Boston press. ...
Both led to high-pro le convictions, in scandal-plagued environments. It is interesting, however, to contrast the coverage devoted to these cases by the main newspapers from the respective states' main cities: New York City, located just over 100 miles away from the state capital Albany, and Boston, which happens to be the capital itself. A search for \Joseph Bruno" (or \Joseph L. Bruno") and \corruption" in November 2011 yielded 154 articles in the online archives of the New York Times, 77 in the New York Post, and 91 in the New York Daily News. The same search with \Salvatore DiMasi" (or \Salvatore F. DiMasi"), on the other hand, yielded 238 matches in the Boston Globe and 130 matches in the Boston Herald. The di fference is more remarkable if we control for the size of the diff erent newspapers: a \neutral" search (for the word \Monday," following Gentzkow et al. (2005)) reveals, for instance, that the New York Times is about twice the size of the Boston Globe. In sum, Boston newspapers seem to have devoted substantially more coverage to the DiMasi scandal than New York City newspapers did to the Bruno a air { consistent with the idea that their readership might be more interested in what goes on in Beacon Hill (the central Boston neighborhood that is the site of the state government) than the New York papers' is in what takes place in Albany.