New Transparency Website for Illinoisans

Yesterday, The Illinois State Comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka introduced a new transparency website. I’m getting dizzy from all of the transparency websites in Illinois. So, what makes this one any different?

Yesterday, The Illinois State Comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka introduced a new transparency website,

I’m getting dizzy from all of the transparency websites in Illinois:

But, I suppose, given this State’s history of patronage and corruption, the more the merrier. So, what makes this one any different?

The homepage has a letter from Ms. Topinka, touting that “you can track the daily activity of the state’s accounts, perform searches on specific revenues, expenditures, and entities, or even track a state employee’s salary… I am confident that opening our Ledger will enhance the public’s ability to ‘follow the money.’”

Admittedly, for the transparency and fiscal accountability nerds among us, it is pretty cool to be able to track the daily activity of Illinois accounts.

But one of the best features of the new website is the “Open Book database,” which compares state contracts with campaign contributions. This is a very cool concept with unlimited potential. And I have an idea to make it even better: One big problem with it right now is that in order to find a company in the database, the user has to know the name of the vendor. How many Illinoisans know the names of vendors for every good and service in the state? For example, say that someone wanted to know if the people who provide food for school lunches in Illinois made any campaign contributions, but don’t know what companies provide school lunches in Illinois— the search would have to stop there. Instead, the database should be searchable by good/service to make sure any Illinoisan could hop on the website and find what they are looking for.

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending check corruption, bolsters public confidence, and promotes fiscal responsibility. So hats off to Comptroller Topinka for working to bring more information to the people of Illinois.


Celeste Meiffren-Swango

State Director, Environment Oregon

As director of Environment Oregon, Celeste develops and runs campaigns to win real results for Oregon's environment. She has worked on issues ranging from preventing plastic pollution, stopping global warming, defending clean water, and protecting our beautiful places. Celeste's organizing has helped to reduce kids' exposure to lead in drinking water at childcare facilities in Oregon, encourage transportation electrification, ban single-use plastic grocery bags, defend our bedrock environmental laws and more. She is also the author of the children's book, Myrtle the Turtle, empowering kids to prevent plastic pollution. Celeste lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and two daughters, where they frequently enjoy the bounty of Oregon's natural beauty.

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