Government Transparency

Shaping A Government Accountable to the People

How our government collects and spends money is critically important. Tax and budget decisions are the most concrete way that communities declare priorities and balance competing values.

Unfortunately, government decisions about how to raise revenue and support public functions often fail to best advance the public interest. Too often, public subsidies, tax breaks or special deals are granted to powerful corporate interests at the taxpayers’ expense. When this happens, taxpayers are stuck with the tab, or public resources and services end up threatened.

It is not possible to ensure that government decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible. Likewise, public officials and private companies that receive contracts and subsidies must be held accountable for delivering promised goods and services.

Transparency in government spending checks corruption, promotes fiscal responsibility, and allows for greater, more meaningful participation in our democratic system. OSPIRG Foundation is working to advance these goals on a variety of fronts:

  • Promoting public access to online information about government spending at a detailed "checkbook" level including contracts, subsidies and "off-budget" agencies. OSPIRG Foundation's 2016 Following The Money report is the seventh annual scorecard of state's online budget transparency. This latest scorecard finds that states continue to make progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click transparency and accountability for state government spending, but some states are lagging and in all states there are opportunities to expand transparency to include economic development subsidies and quasi-public agencies.
  • Ensuring that companies that receive public subsidies are held accountable for delivering clear benefits or required to return public dollars. 
  • Protecting against bad privatization deals that sell off public assets on the cheap and diminish public control of vital public structures such as toll roads, parking systems and traffic enforcement. 

Find a full list of our reports here.

Issue updates

News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy, Tax

Companies Paid More to Lobby Congress than they did in Taxes

With the second anniversary approaching of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case – which opened the floodgates to corporate spending on elections – OSPIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice reveal 30 corporations that spent more to lobby Congress than they did in taxes.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy, Tax

Representation without Taxation

Two years ago, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision opened the floodgates to corporate influence in our political system by allowing corporations to pour money from their treasuries into the campaign coffers of political candidates. This report examines one area of policymaking where corporate money already had an enormous impact even before that decision: tax law. 

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Tax

Following the Money 2011

Second annual look at how well all 50 states are doing in providing online access to government spending data. Oregon's grade has improved dramatically from last year to this year.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Tax

Accessibility of Public Records Relating to Oregon’s Economic Development Tax Expenditures

OSPIRG white paper on accessibility of Oregon's economic development tax expenditures through public records requests. Barriers of cost, lengthy delays and exemptions to the public records law show that the average citizen can not access this information easily.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Tax

Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck

This report examines the tax subsidies that corporations benefit from in Oregon, what we know about them, and what we don't. The report provides recommendations for improving transparency and accountability of Oregon's tax subsidies.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Tax

Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck

This report examines the tax subsidies that corporations benefit from in Oregon, what we know about them, and what we don't. The report provides recommendations for improving transparency and accountability of Oregon's tax subsidies.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Tax

Following the Money

This report rates all 50 states on the quality of their budget transparency websites. Read to see how Oregon ranks.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Budget, Democracy, Tax

Transparency.gov 2.0

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