Missouri Named America’s Most Corrupt City, Again

Missouri, known as the Show-Me State, has once again earned the unfortunate distinction of being labeled the most corrupt state in the nation, as per a recent report by the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University. This study, spanning from 1976 to 2023, ranks states based on public corruption convictions per capita. Shockingly, Missouri leads the list, followed by Louisiana, Illinois, Alabama, and Mississippi. What factors contribute to Missouri’s high corruption rate, and what steps can be taken to address this issue?

Causes of Corruption in Missouri

The Institute for Corruption Studies report, authored by economist Oguzhan Dincer, points to several factors contributing to Missouri’s elevated corruption levels:

Demographics: Missouri’s relatively rural and homogeneous nature fosters a culture of loyalty and favoritism among political elites, limiting diversity of viewpoints and public officials’ accountability.

Culture: With a history dating back to the 19th century, Missouri has a tradition of corruption, exemplified by the infamous Pendergast machine. This historical influence has shaped the state’s political and economic landscape.

Voter Participation: Missouri experiences one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation, indicating a lack of civic engagement. Low voter participation diminishes the likelihood of electing honest leaders, amplifying the influence of special interests.

Examples of Corruption in Missouri

Corruption in Missouri extends across all levels of government, with notable examples including:

  • Gov. Eric Greitens: Indicted in 2023 on felony charges including invasion of privacy and computer tampering, Greitens resigned amid allegations of sexual assault, blackmail, and campaign finance violations.
  • Sen. Josh Hawley: Accused of inciting the Capitol riot on January 6, 2023, Hawley faced an ethics complaint for his role in the insurrection and alleged misrepresentation of facts.
  • St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger: Sentenced to prison in 2023 for orchestrating a pay-to-play scheme involving awarding county contracts to campaign donors.

Solutions to Corruption in Missouri

Addressing Missouri’s corruption requires concrete measures:

  • Reforming Campaign Finance: Implement stricter regulations on campaign contributions and expenditures, enhancing transparency and reducing the influence of special interests.
  • Strengthening Ethics Laws: Enact and enforce robust ethics laws for public officials, establishing an independent ethics commission to investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
  • Increasing Civic Education: Promote civic education and awareness, particularly among young and marginalized groups, to empower citizens and encourage active participation in civic activities.


Missouri’s corruption problem demands urgent attention and comprehensive reforms. By addressing campaign finance, strengthening ethics laws, and promoting civic engagement, Missouri can work towards restoring trust in government institutions and fostering a more transparent and accountable political landscape. The state has the potential to overcome this challenge and strive for a brighter future.

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