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. Illinois PIRG Education Fund 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. Illinois PIRG Education Fund'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 | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money in Smaller Races, Part II

A second look at the influence of big money in state legislative primaries: campaign contribution analysis of 15 state House races.

> Keep Reading
Report | Democracy

Big Money in Smaller Races

 

Campaign contribution analysis on March 2018 primary contests in Illinois state legislative races shows the impact that big money has in smaller races too.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Race for Attorney General | Hannah Kim

As Illinois voters prepare to elect candidates for many top government offices in 2018, it is increasingly apparent that candidates must compete in a “money primary” in addition to regular primary elections.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Go Big or Go Home | Abe Scarr

To compete in the race for Illinois Governor, candidates are raising the vast majority - 97% - of their campaign funds this year from donors giving $1,000 or more.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Some Good News for Illinois | Abe Scarr

At a time when it seems like Springfield can't agree on anything, automatic voter registration has won bipartisan support.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

New Report: County clerks’ take on Automatic Voter Registration

County clerks from across the state think automatic voter registration could mean more efficiency without adding to the budget.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Small donor program could reshape campaign fundraising in Cook County State's Attorney race, new report shows

Candidates in the 2016 Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic primary race would see a dramatic shift in fundraising focus under a proposed small donor matching program, according to a study released today by Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Final Numbers Show Big Money Dominated Chicago Mayoral Elections

Ninety-six percent of all money raised by the Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia mayoral campaigns came from donors giving $1,000 or more, according to Illinois PIRG Education Fund analysis of fundraising reports, the latest of which were released late Wednesday. Only 2% came from donors giving less than $150.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Mayoral Election Dominated by Big, Out of Town Money

Thicker wallets gave big donors an outsized voice in this year’s mayoral election, according to new analysis of campaign finance data by Illinois PIRG Education Fund. Contributions greater than $1,000 accounted for 92% of the money contributed to the Emanuel and Garcia Campaigns, while under 2% of the money contributed came from contributions of less than $150. A clear majority -- 58% -- of money contributed, came from donors living outside Chicago.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

In Aldermanic Races Fueled by Big Money, Top Fundraiser Wins 93% of the Time

In the Chicago aldermanic races the candidate with the most money almost always wins, small donors represent only a small portion of candidates’ campaign cash, and small donor campaign finance reform would shake up elections according to a new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund. The report analyzes campaign contributions going to top candidates in all 50 wards in the 2015 aldermanic elections.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Big Money in Smaller Races, Part II

A second look at the influence of big money in state legislative primaries: campaign contribution analysis of 15 state House races.

> Keep Reading
Report | Democracy

Big Money in Smaller Races

 

Campaign contribution analysis on March 2018 primary contests in Illinois state legislative races shows the impact that big money has in smaller races too.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

The 21st Century Election

Automatic voter registration is this year’s hot trend in registration and administration reform. In this report, Illinois PIRG Education Fund gathers input from election officials across the state who would have a role in implementing AVR.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Boosting the Impact of Small Donors

This report examines how the Cook County State’s Attorney Democratic primary could be reshaped by a public financing system that amplifies the voices of small donors in our elections.

> Keep Reading
Report | Illinois PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Boosting the Impact of Small Donors

With more than a year to go before voters cast their ballots for the next President of the United States, the race among candidates to build the biggest campaign war chest has already set records.

This report examines how the 2016 presidential race would be reshaped by a financing system that amplifies the voices of small donors in our elections.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Race for Attorney General | Hannah Kim

As Illinois voters prepare to elect candidates for many top government offices in 2018, it is increasingly apparent that candidates must compete in a “money primary” in addition to regular primary elections.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Go Big or Go Home | Abe Scarr

To compete in the race for Illinois Governor, candidates are raising the vast majority - 97% - of their campaign funds this year from donors giving $1,000 or more.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

Some Good News for Illinois | Abe Scarr

At a time when it seems like Springfield can't agree on anything, automatic voter registration has won bipartisan support.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

The Money Race | Abe Scarr

Election Day is tomorrow. We've compiled fundraising data for the 18 aldermanic races and Mayoral race as of this weekend. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

The "Level" Playing Field | Abe Scarr

The fact that allowing megadonors to contribute without limit is considered 'leveling the playing field,' creating a playing field on which the vast majority of Chicago voters can't play any meaningful role, is a sad statement of how big money has been allowed to dominate our elections

> Keep Reading

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