The late great actor James Gandolfini in his role as Tony Soprano, head of the New Jersey crime family in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” (Barry Wetcher/HBO via Associated Press)

We were shocked to learn that researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University had recently come up with a way to determine which U.S. states were the most corrupt — and some of the usual suspects weren’t on the list.

The researchers, according to a report in Fortune, “studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008” and other factors to come up with a “corruption index” estimating the most and least corrupt states.

Here are their winners:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota
9. Kentucky
10. Florida

Well, Illinois, Florida and Lousiana sure make sense. But how is it possible that New Jersey and New York could not make the grade ahead of Mississippi?

Could it be that the pols in Mississippi aren’t as clever as their counterparts up north and haven’t figured out how to cover their tracks as well? That would boost the number of convictions in the state.

After all, Mississippi ranks at the bottom among states on federal reading tests. And we note that GOP U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel, challenging his narrow loss in a June 24 primary, listed his lead attorney and the lawyer’s wife as irregular votes that should be tossed out.