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. CoPIRG 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. CoPIRG 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 | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Outside Influence: Out-of-state money in the 2016 senate elections

Control of the United States Senate is at stake in the 2016 elections. Out of 34 senate races nationally, the outcome could be decided by just several swing states and a few key constituencies. But there is another deciding factor in this year’s race for the senate: money.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG 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
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Playing an Outsized Role in Colorado Elections

In Colorado’s congressional primaries, bigger wallets give a small set of mega-donors an outsized voice, according to new information released today by the CoPIRG Foundation and Demos. Just 457 donors who gave $1,000 or more to candidates in the primaries outspent the at least 14,183 small donors who gave less than $200, and 64% percent of all candidate contributions came from donors giving chunks of $1,000 or more.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions undermining campaign finance rules, most notably Citizens United, our elections have become increasingly dominated by large donors, at the expense of ordinary Americans.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG 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

Pages

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Playing an Outsized Role in Colorado Elections

In Colorado’s congressional primaries, bigger wallets give a small set of mega-donors an outsized voice, according to new information released today by the CoPIRG Foundation and Demos. Just 457 donors who gave $1,000 or more to candidates in the primaries outspent the at least 14,183 small donors who gave less than $200, and 64% percent of all candidate contributions came from donors giving chunks of $1,000 or more.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

New Report Details Latest Campaign Finance Numbers on Outside Spending

Unlimited outside spending fueled by a small number of wealthy donors is poised to have an outsized impact on the 2012 elections, according to a new report analyzing the latest campaign filings.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Citizens United Opinion Widens Corporate “Personhood” Rights

Supreme Court decision in Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission will significantly expand the role that the most powerful corporations play in election financing.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

New Study: Modernizing Our Voter Registration System Could Eliminate Millions in Wasteful Spending

A new CoPIRG Foundation study estimated that over $33,467,910.00 of public money from 100 sample counties around the country was spent on simple registration implementation and error-correction issues in 2008.  Colorado counties surveyed included Denver, Mesa and Park.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Outside Influence: Out-of-state money in the 2016 senate elections

Control of the United States Senate is at stake in the 2016 elections. Out of 34 senate races nationally, the outcome could be decided by just several swing states and a few key constituencies. But there is another deciding factor in this year’s race for the senate: money.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG 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 | CoPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions undermining campaign finance rules, most notably Citizens United, our elections have become increasingly dominated by large donors, at the expense of ordinary Americans.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG 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 | CoPIRG | Democracy

McCutcheon Money

We project that striking the aggregate contribution limit would bring more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

> Keep Reading

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