BUDAPEST, Hungary — The U.S. posted its worst result in at least eight years in a global corruption index, as special interests and growing threats to checks and balances made it more difficult to tackle graft.

The U.S. was tied with France for 23rd in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, one place lower than the previous year, according to a report published by Transparency International on Thursday. Denmark and New Zealand tied for first, indicating the lowest levels of corruption.

Of particular concern in the U.S. and many other countries is the correlation between money and politics, the watchdog said. Almost two thirds of countries that significantly improved their standings also strengthened campaign finance laws. Meanwhile, many of the low performers have lax regulations when it comes to wealth and power, according to the report.

“More than in any other major developed country, people in America believe that rich people buy elections,” said Scott Greytak, Advocacy Director for Transparency International’s U.S. office. “When people think their government is for sale, they stop believing in its future.”

Although northern European countries retained their spots at the top of the index (Nordic countries occupied five of the top 11 places), they’re not immune to sleaze, particularly when it comes to the private sector.

Danske Bank A/S, Denmark’s largest bank, and Swedish lenders Swedbank AB and SEB AB have all been implicated in recent probes over the laundering of billions of dollars of Russian money via their Baltic units.