What about good anti-corruption laws? The State Integrity Investigation had “experienced journalists grade each state government on its corruption risk using 330 specific measures” put into 14 categories, including campaign finance, ethics laws, lobbying regulations and management of the state pension fund.Historians say that laws against a thing are good evidence for the existence of a thing. If you find laws against polygamy, you can be pretty sure that there was some polygamy going on and people didn't like it.
The scores on these laws had little correlation with the other measures of corruption. Georgia took home the honors as having the least stringent anti-corruption laws. Somehow, New Jersey was rated as having the best anti-corruption laws, even though it ranked as the third and eighth most corrupt state, according to the reporter rankings and federal corruption convictions per capita, respectively. Illinois ranked in the top six across all the other categories, except it had some of the best anti-corruption laws on the books.
The lack of connection between the laws and actual corruption shouldn’t be that surprising. Some of the most corrupt states have recently passed laws because they were corrupt. The less corrupt states may not need the stricter laws.
Of course, that's not always true, even if it is a pretty reliable principle of historiography. Alabama just passed a strict rule against the practice of shariah law within its borders, and as far as I know there's very close to none being practiced there.