A customer pays for a purchase in cash with U.S. $100 dollar notes at a store in Houston, Texas, U.S. (Photographer: Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg)

U.S. Government Seen as Most Corrupt in Seven Years

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plunged in an annual global corruption index as a surge in support for populist leaders and the erosion of democracy hobbled efforts to tackle graft around the world.

The U.S. under President Donald Trump dropped six places to 22nd globally in the 2018 corruption-perception index published by the Berlin-based Transparency International. Denmark came in first, trading places with New Zealand, which was deemed least corrupt in 2017.

The rise of nationalist leaders has led to deteriorating transparency when it comes to public finances, including via the dismantlement of checks and balances on power, according to the graft watchdog. It said examples include Turkey and Hungary, which in the last seven years have seen their corruption ratings plummet in line with worsening scorecards on democracy.

“Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public-sector corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, the chair of Transparency International. “Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage.”

The U.S. registered its lowest score on the annual index in seven years. Transparency cited “threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

Transparency International used 13 different data sources from 12 different institutions that capture perceptions of corruption within the past two years.

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