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. Iowa 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. Iowa 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 | Iowa PIRG Education Fund 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 | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | 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 | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Billion Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines.

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

Secretive, Out of State Donors Dominate Election in Iowa

Over 96% of campaign donations for Iowa’s Congressional races came from out of state funders, according to a report released today by the Iowa Public Interest Research Group (Iowa PIRG). The report, entitled, “Billion Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role of Money in the 2012 Elections,” examined the deep pocket spending by Super PACs and other non-party entities in the 2012 campaign cycle.

> Keep Reading
Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Megaphones for Millionaires: A Post-Election Analysis of Outside Spending in 2012

A new analysis of data through Election Day from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by Iowa PIRG and Demos shows how big outside spenders drowned out small contributions in 2012: just 61 large donors to Super PACs giving on average $4.7 million each matched the $285.1 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors to the major party presidential candidates.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Secretive, Out of State Donors Dominate Election in Iowa

Over 96% of campaign donations for Iowa’s Congressional races came from out of state funders, according to a report released today by the Iowa Public Interest Research Group (Iowa PIRG). The report, entitled, “Billion Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role of Money in the 2012 Elections,” examined the deep pocket spending by Super PACs and other non-party entities in the 2012 campaign cycle.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Distorted Democracy: Big Money and Dark Money in the 2012 Elections

A new analysis of pre-election data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by Iowa PIRG and Demos shows that outside spending in the first presidential election since Citizens United is living up to its hype: new waves of “outside spending” have been fueled by dark money and unlimited fundraising from a small number of wealthy donors.

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

Iowa Receives an "F" in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Iowa once again received an “F” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the third annual report of its kind by the Iowa Public Interest Research Group (Iowa PIRG). 

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

Tracking Down Secrect Campaign Funds Spent in Super PACs

Today Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos released a new analysis of the funding sources for the campaign finance behemoths, Super PACs. The findings confirmed what many have predicted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s damaging Citizens United decision: since their inception in 2010, Super PACs have been primarily funded by a small segment of very wealthy individuals and business interests, with a small but significant amount of funds coming from secret sources.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Iowa PIRG Ed Fund | Democracy, Tax

Wells Fargo One of the 'Dirty Thirty'

With the second anniversary approaching of the Supreme Court case Citizens United rapidly approaching – it is clear that the floodgates to corporate political spending are open, and that Fortune 500 Companies are taking full advantage. A report released today by Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Citizens for Tax Justice reveals 30 of our nations most profitable corporations that spent more to lobby Congress than they did in taxes.

> Keep Reading

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Result | Democracy

Promoting Young Voter Participation

Two million more 18-24 year olds voted in 2008 than in the presidential election in 2004.

> Keep Reading
Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund 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 | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | 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 | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Billion Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines.

> Keep Reading
Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Megaphones for Millionaires: A Post-Election Analysis of Outside Spending in 2012

A new analysis of data through Election Day from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by Iowa PIRG and Demos shows how big outside spenders drowned out small contributions in 2012: just 61 large donors to Super PACs giving on average $4.7 million each matched the $285.1 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1,425,500 small donors to the major party presidential candidates.

> Keep Reading
Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

Million-Dollar Megaphones

Although each major party presidential candidate will likely break previous fundraising records, the big story of the 2012 election has been the role of Super PACs, nonprofits and outside spending generally.

> Keep Reading

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