It’s our money, and we have the right to know how our taxes are being spent.
Don’t you agree?
Adam Andrzejewski, of OpenTheBooks.com, does. Government transparency is at the very core of his organization:
“The mission of OpenTheBooks.com is quite simply to take every dime that is taxed and spent at every unit of government, so that’s the federal, the state and local units all across the country, agregate it and post it online, so that all of us can use it to make activism easier and to hold our elected officials accountable for tax and spend decisions,” he explained in an interview with BenSwann.com’s Joshua Cook.
This idea was one of his campaign messages when Andrzejewski ran for governor of Illinois in 2010.
Illinois knows a thing or two about corruption. In Illinois, their governors make their license plates in jail, he joked.
“I ran on a robust transparency slogan: to put every dime online, in real time,” he explained.
Though he did not win, he did keep that campaign promise, first at a local level and now nationwide.
“We have no idea where our local tax dollars are going. Or our state tax dollars. Or our federal tax dollars,” he said.
OpenTheBooks.com gave Illinois a rude awakening.
“When we opened the books in Illinois on our local officials, we found that there were 5,000 six-figure pensions in the State of Illinois.,” he explain. On the site, those pensions were mapped so that residents could easily check up on things like this.
The site also shows the hyper localization of federal tax money. He said that you can input a zip code and see who is receiving federal money.
“In my zip code, we found that $3.64 million flowed to our local Rolex jeweler, $1.5 million flowed to our local Lamborghini auto dealer and a $1 million grant went to a community foundation where my daughter takes dance.” he said. “It’s just plain wrong.”
“We found a school district treasurer right next to where I live, and he went from $163,000 in one year up to $296,000 the next year,” he said.
That’s when people started asking questions and that person was indicted for stealing $1.5 million of taxpayer money over 20 years.
“And that’s what transparency gives you — the hard data. The bad apples can’t hide any longer,” he said.
OpenTheBooks.com gives activists the information they need without all of the Freedom of Information Act requests necessary to compile it. Like during the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, the site became the de facto repository for salary information since the VA wasn’t answering, even to congress.
“More often than not there is waste, abuse, corruption and unnecessary spending that needs to be squeezed out of the system,” he said. “And the squeeze can only happen with citizen engagement.”
Click here to hear the entire interview.