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 | 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.

> Keep Reading
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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News Release | OSPIRG

 

The Oregon Supreme Court has affirmed the constitutionality of campaign contribution limits in Oregon. The ruling that the court issued Thursday in Multnomah County v Mehrwein overturned previous precedent from the 1997 decision Vanetta v Keisling. 

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.  

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OSPIRG Foundation is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.