With national debt looming at over $17 trillion and counting, knowing where scarce public dollars are going should be an initiative politicians from all sides can support.
Unfortunately, there are some who would like to keep citizens in the dark about financial decisions being made with taxpayer dollars. In a 2013 lawsuit, For the Good of Illinois, Inc sued the State of Illinois’ Office of Comptroller because “the Comptroller refused to show citizens the state checkbook,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of For the Good of Illinois.
For the Good of Illinois easily won the case as the Comptroller has a constitutional duty to provide spending information upon request, and is required by law under the Freedom of Information Act to fulfil those requests.
Andrzejewski is also the founder of OpentheBooks.com, a website and app that aims to post “every dime” of government spending online. Providing access to 12 years of federal spending, Open the Books allows users to “track federal spending down to your neighborhood,” but Andrzejewski warns users to, “be prepared, though, because the results aren’t pretty.”
For instance, Open the Books discovered that Illinois journalist Rich Miller has received over $521,000 of taxpayer’s money paid to his Capitol Fax Blog. It comes as no surprise that Miller adamantly opposed For the Good of Illinois in their law suit against the Illinois Comptroller. The conflicted journalist clearly benefited from opacity in government spending, and did not want Chicago citizens to know how much he has profited from their tax-dollars.
Although ‘the results aren’t pretty,” transparency in government spending is vital for the economy as the nation is trying to dig itself out of significant debt and establish taxpayer confidence in addition to reducing government fraud and waste.
“Only by fostering a culture of openness, transparency and accountability will Congress come together to address the mounting fiscal challenges that threaten our future prosperity,” according to Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Cost of Government Center has lauded the efforts of lawmakers to increase transparency in all facets of government spending, ranging from transparency of foreign aid to opening the books on defense spending. Establishing, maintaining, and increasing transparency acts as a safeguard against wasteful spending and fraud while empowering citizens to track exactly how the government decides to their money.