Government Transparency

U.S. PIRG believes that budgeting should be open, accountable, and follow long-term planning. Public money should be spent for the most effective pursuit of clear public benefits or to encourage beneficial behaviors undervalued by the market. 

Through Transparency, Shaping A Government Accountable to the People

How 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 to task for their actions. 

Transparency in government spending checks corruption, promotes fiscal responsibility and allows for greater, more meaningful participation in our democratic system. U.S. PIRG 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.
     
  • 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.

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Public Health

America’s Health Comes in Last Place in “America First” Budget

Today, President Trump released his first proposed budget to Congress. Here is a statement from Toxics Director Kara Cook-Schultz on the President’s budget proposal.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Democracy, Tax

AT&T, Duke Energy and Disney among the largest corporate donors to candidates in 2016

Corporations from Walmart, to Aflac, to Duke Energy were among the largest contributors to candidates in states during 2016, according to a new analysis of data by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

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U.S. PIRG Statement on President Trump’s First Address to Congress

President Trump gave his first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, highlighting his legislative priorities for the coming year. His speech touched on issues ranging from the budget, infrastructure, and special interest influence in government.

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

Picking Up the Tab 2016

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their federal and state income tax liability by billions of dollars. While tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars – they avoid paying their fair share for these benefits.

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

Offshore Shell Games 2016

U.S.-based multinational corporations are allowed to play by a different set of rules than small and domestic businesses or individuals when it comes to paying taxes. Corporate lobbyists and their congressional allies have riddled the U.S. tax code with loopholes and exceptions that enable tax attorneys and corporate accountants to book U.S. earned profits to subsidiaries located in offshore tax haven countries with minimal or no taxes.

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News Release | Budget

U.S. PIRG Statement on State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama came before Congress to give his seventh and final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President highlighted top national priorities and some of the greatest challenges faced by the American people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget

U.S. PIRG statement on 100+ Ohio Localities Disclosing Spending Data on State’s Transparency Website

Statement by Phineas Baxandall, Senior Policy Analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group on the announcement that 100 Ohio local governments have posted online data about their spending though a web portal provided by the Ohio Treasurer’s Office.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Small Businesses $3,244 a Year

As tax day approaches, it’s important to remember that small businesses end up picking up the tab for offshore tax loopholes used by many large multinational corporations. U.S. PIRG joined Senator Bernie Sanders, Bryan McGannon of the American Sustainable Business Council, and Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice today to release a new study by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund revealing that the average small business owner in 2014 would have to pay an extra $3,244 in taxes to make up for the money lost in 2014 due to offshore tax haven abuse by large multinational corporations. 

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

Picking Up The Tab 2015: Small Businesses Pay the Price for Offshore Tax Havens

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their federal and state income tax liabilities by billions of dollars. While tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars – they continue to avoid paying for these benefits.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2015

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Report | U.S. PIRG Ed Fund & Citizens for Tax Justice | Budget, Tax

Offshore Shell Games 2014

Tax loopholes encouraged more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies to maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens as of 2013, according to “Offshore Shell Games,” released today by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Citizens For Tax Justice. Collectively, the companies reported booking nearly $2 trillion offshore for tax purposes, with just 30 companies accounting for 62 percent of the total, or $1.2 trillion.

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

Following the Money 2014

The fifth annual report card evaluating how well each of the 50 states provide public access to data about government spending shows ongoing advances in transparency across the nation but some states far ahead of others.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Budget

Fact Sheet: End Tax Write-Offs for Wrongdoing

Fact sheet explains the issue and gives examples.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Recent Inversion Wave Brings on Slew of Outrage - What's Next? | Jaimie Woo

 

Ten years ago, Republicans and Democrats agreed that corporate tax dodging was a problem, and came together to fix it. But large U.S. corporations got trickier — they sought out new ways to get around paying their taxes on U.S. profits, hiring thousands of tax accountants to take advantage of loopholes in our tax code. The recent fix? Corporate inversions.

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Blog Post | Budget

Our Taxpayer Dollars: Going to Waste and Wealthy Corporations | Jaimie Woo

 

Congress just passed a Farm Bill that will put taxpayers on the hook for another five years of billion-dollar handouts to huge, wealthy agribusinesses. Even the most modest reforms to trim subsidies were stripped out or watered down at the last second by the chairs of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees.

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Blog Post | Budget, Tax

Webinar for State Officials on Spending Transparency

U.S. PIRG Education Fund conducted a webinar with officials from 31 states on ways to improve online spending transparency.

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Blog Post | Budget

Problems With Privatized Law Enforcement's New Frontier

One in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction that outsources traffic ticketing this way, according to a newly released report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, titled "Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public." And a report released by the Justice Department suggests this trend may accelerate under the twin pressures of budget pressure and intense lobbying.

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Blog Post | Budget

How Much Did You Pay for Tax Dodging Corporations?

Yesterday, millions of Americans rushed to the post office to file their federal income tax returns. For all of us, the checks we wrote were an average of $434 higher because of the burden we are forced to shoulder for major corporations and wealthy individuals who use offshore tax havens to avoid paying their share.

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