The Center for Public Integrity released its State Integrity Investigation Monday. Texas received a D+ grade when it comes to government corruptibility, ranking 27th among all 50 states.

The Lone Star State received an F in the categories of Public Access to Information, Executive Accountability and Redistricting. The state’s only A was in the Internal Auditing category.

The author of the Texas portion of the study, Kelley Shannon, writes that although state laws, such as the Texas Public Information Act, are strong, actions by state officials and lawmakers often inhibit how that law is implemented.

"[Texas] has a long way to go when it comes to holding state officials fully accountable, government watchdogs say. In keeping political agendas separate from official state business at the highest levels of government, they say Texas also falls short," Shannon writes.

No state received an A+ rating. The best score went to New Jersey, the worst to Georgia.
Keith Elkins is the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He says part of what led to Texas’ D+ grade for public integrity is problems with implementing the Texas Public Information Act.

"You wouldn’t find this acceptable if your child brought home a near failing grade on a report card,” Elkins said. “You shouldn’t find it acceptable for elected officials who write the laws and cut themselves out in loopholes, which resulted in this near failing grade as well."

Some public officials incorrectly say they have 10 days to respond to information requests. However, that is really just the cutoff for the agency to request an attorney general’s opinion if there’s a problem.

"Lawmakers can change this,” Elkins said. “Lawmakers can basically tell state agencies that if you get caught abusing this, you’re going to have to pay a fine or something else — but they’re going to have to do it in legislation."

Austin bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, Christy Hoppe, has seen the issues with the Texas Public Information Act firsthand. She sent in a recent request to find out what state business Gov. Perry had accomplished since his failed presidential bid.

“How basic is it for somebody to hand over the governor’s schedule, when he’s already had that schedule? It’s sitting on somebody’s desk," she said. "It took them 15 days to get back to me with what he had been doing for two weeks."

No matter the circumstance, if there’s an effort to withhold information, court battles can be timely and costly.

"There is transparency but you have to wait for it, you have to sift through it and you have to claw and nail to get the basic of information that you need to make a judgment on how your government’s working," Hoppe said.

Kelley Shannon will be a guest on "Capital Tonight" this Thursday night to discuss the study. Shannon is married to YNN News Director Michael Pearson.