A global anti-corruption watchdog says the United States has dropped four spots in its list of nations' anti-corruption efforts and is now no longer listed in the top 20 for the first time since 2011.
"A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” said Zoe Reiter, acting representative to the U.S. at Transparency International. “If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue globally."
In his second year in office President Donald Trump continues to assail the news media, often referring to outlets he doesn't like as "fake news" and has dubbed the ongoing investigation into links between his presidential campaign and Russia a "witch hunt."
"Concerns around the Trump administration are quite serious, but this has been stewing for several years," Reiter told Reuters. "Conflict of interest wasn't a new problem, but it was illuminated in its glory when you have someone who is basically breaking norms."
The United States scored a 71 in the perceptions index after scoring 75 the previous year. The Trump administration has not responded to the report.
Transparency International uses several criteria for measuring how well a country is fighting corruption, including checks and balances on political power, controls on conflicts of interest and private influence on government, and voter suppression.
For the 2018 index, 180 countries were surveyed. Denmark and New Zealand topped the list while Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan were at the bottom.
“With many democratic institutions under threat across the globe – often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies – we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International.
Transparency International also called for supporting a free and independent media and ensuring the safety of journalist and their ability to work without intimidation or harassment.