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. U.S. 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. U.S. 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

Media Hit | Democracy

The Daily Show mentions U.S.PIRG Report: Representation Without Taxation

Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren and Jon Stewart discussed U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice's new report, Representation Without Taxation, on the January 24th edition of the Daily Show. The report outlines the "Dirty 30", corporations that spent more money lobbying congress than they paid in taxes between 2008-2010. U.S. PIRG and CTJ released the report to mark the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for corporate influence in our government, as well as to highlight the need to fix the tax code to force corporations to pay their fair share.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy, Tax

Representation Without Taxation

Marking the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case – which opened the floodgates to corporate spending on elections – this report takes a hard look at the lobbying activities of profitable Fortune 500 companies that exploit loopholes and work to distort the tax code to avoid billions of dollars in taxes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget, Democracy

Thirty Fortune 500 Companies Paid More to Lobby Congress than they Did in Federal Income Taxes

With the second anniversary approaching of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case – which opened the floodgates to corporate spending on elections – U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Citizens for Tax Justice reveal 30 corporations that spent more to lobby Congress than they did in taxes.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

U.S. PIRG Calls on Candidates to Denounce Super PACs

The current coordination rules are an insult to American democracy, yet candidates continue to test their luck in weakening them further. If the presidential contenders, all of whom have sympathetic Super PACs, are serious about their objections, then they should publicly denounce their affiliated independent expenditure committees.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

6 Reform Groups Support the Letter of 25 Representatives in Favor of President Obama’s Proposed Transparency Executive Order

Yesterday Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), and 23 others, wrote a letter to President Obama expressing their strong support for the April 13 draft executive order to require full disclosure of campaign spending and contributions by business entities that seek federal government contracts.

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