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

Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Democracy for the People

Candidates in the 2016 presidential race could see a dramatic shift in fundraising under a small donor empowerment program, according to a new study by OSPIRG Foundation.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

BOOSTING THE IMPACT OF SMALL DONORS

Candidates in the 2016 presidential race would see a dramatic shift in their fundraising, and have a powerful incentive to focus more on small donors under a proposed small donor public financing system, according to a new study released by OSPIRG Foundation.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Most Super PAC Money is Funded by Less than 1% of the 1%

The vast majority of Super PACs are funded by less than 1% of the 1%, according to a new report entitled “Auctioning Democracy”, coauthored by OSPIRG Foundation and Demos.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Auctioning Democracy

The vast majority of Super PACs are funded by less than 1% of the 1%, according to a new report entitled “Auctioning Democracy”.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation & Frontier Group

The influence of big money on politics drowns out the voices of regular Oregonians and makes it difficult or impossible for qualified candidates to run for office without access to deep-pocketed donors. We need our government to be open to everyone, regardless the size of their wallet or connections to big donors.

Report | OSPIRG Foundation

It is well-established that Oregon’s elections often attract large donors from both within and outside the state and that this is all permissible through a combination of state and federal court decisions as well as Oregon’s longstanding lack of campaign finance regulation. 

Less has been written, however, about the disparity between large and small donors in Oregon. To shine some light on this aspect of our elections, OSPIRG Foundation staff examined cash contributions from individuals, business entities, labor organizations and nonprofits reported to Oregon’s campaign finance reporting system (ORESTAR) by Oregon ballot and candidate committees between January 1 and November 4, 2014.  

News Release | OSPIRG Foundation

Candidates in the 2016 presidential race would see a dramatic shift in fundraising success under a proposed small donor public financing system, according to a study released on Wednesday by OSPIRG Foundation.

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