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Government Accountability

A government that operates behind closed doors cannot be the government of a free people. The Goldwater Institute has prompted several reforms shining light into the inner workings of government, including the nation’s most comprehensive online database of line-by-line government spending and restrictions on politicians using tax money for self-promotion. Our regular watchdog reports are helping citizens hold their elected officials accountable.

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  • The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Review of Arizona’s Fiscal Transparency Efforts

    Posted on July 15, 2014 | Type: In the News | Author: Byron Schlomach

    Arizona government entered modern financial transparency in 2008 when the legislature approved the launch of the Arizona Open Books website. When the website came online in 2011, the state essentially opened its checkbook by posting individual transactions to the web. This report assesses the usefulness of Arizona’s Open Books website and reveals questionable financial transactions. The Arizona Open Books website proved useful in exposing some suspicious transactions, but transparency in Arizona still needs improvement. We were able to use the website to find wasteful spending on nearly $2.5 million worth of “Awards” and another $1 million on “Entertainment and Promotional” items in 2013. But the site did not provide sufficient detail to assess the legitimacy of suspicious transactions lumped into catch-all codes like “Other Professional Outside Services,” which totaled $289 million in 2013 alone. The bottom line is that while most of the state’s individual expenditures are posted for public scrutiny, it is still possible for waste, fraud, and abuse to hide in plain sight due to vague or cryptic descriptions of individual expenditures. Curious taxpayers are treated to accounting codes and code descriptions that often bear little resemblance to the purpose for which funds are expended. In addition, payroll abuses can be hidden because payroll is kept secret under current law even though public employee salaries are subject to open records. If Arizona’s state government is to be truly transparent, each transaction posted on Arizona Open Books needs an accompanying memo line to give citizens accurate descriptions of the specific purpose of each transaction. Sourcing of expenditures should be provided as well. Finally, specific details about the public payroll should be a centerpiece of Arizona Open Books.

  • FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SCOTUS decision in NLRB v CANNING only first step to curb executive overreach

    Posted on June 26, 2014 | Type: Press Release

    Today’s unanimous decision by the nine justices is an important first step in curbing abuses by the country’s executive now and in the future, whether Republicans or Democrats are in power. The NLRB appointments at issue in this case were made by the President during congressional recesses to deliberately avoid the vetting process for political appointees that is central for our nation’s checks and balances to succeed. Fortunately, thanks to this decision, we can rein in that abusive process. But we must be steadfast in our fight against practices of this kind, and today’s victory is only one piece in the solution to curbing federal overreach. The NLRB, in particular, led by unvetted political appointees, has shown itself as an agency willing to make an end-run around the legislative process to seek major changes to the American landscape, most notably through efforts to implement card check nationwide through obscure agency rulemaking without the attention of the American public. That’s why we must continue to counterbalance federal overreach through reforms like Save Our Secret Ballot to protect American workers and the American economy no matter who is holding these agency seats and no matter how they come to hold office.”

  • How Cities Can Drive Economic Growth in Five Easy Steps

    Posted on May 12, 2014 | Type: In the News | Author: Byron Schlomach

    Cities across the country struggled through the recent recession, and several even declared bankruptcy, including Stockton and San Bernardino in California, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Central Falls, Rhode Island and, perhaps most famously, Detroit, Michigan. Stockton’s decline has been harrowing as its finances have so declined that essential services, especially the police, have been reduced. The city’s gang and narcotics teams had to be disbanded even as the city saw its murder rate hit an all-time high in 2012. The city is learning to fight back with help from the county sheriff and changes to its policing methods, but real long-term damage has been done to its reputation. Even before its bankruptcy, Detroit had a plan on the table to reduce costs by demolishing abandoned houses and commercial buildings. The city’s decline has been so thorough that it has been used as an example of what happens to buildings in its Life After People series.

  • Public Money for Private Gain: Legal Strategies to End Taxpayer-Funded Union Activism and Pension Spiking

    Posted on May 12, 2014 | Type: Report

    Numerous states are shaking off decades-old union shackles that have dampened job growth, weighed down economies, and created fiscal crises. The rust-belt states of Michigan and Indiana are the latest to convert to right-to-work states, putting them on a better footing for economic growth. While private sector unions are shrinking, public sector unions aren’t retreating quietly, however. Public employee unions play an outsized role in electing state and local officials with whom they then typically bargain behind closed doors over wages and benefits. These unions are leveraging that power to push back against right to work and implement policies known as release time and pension spiking.

  • Cheatham v. DiCiccio

    Posted on April 24, 2014 | Type: Case

    In September, Goldwater Institute investigative reporter Mark Flatten released an investigative report showing that Phoenix and other Arizona cities spend millions of dollars every year to pay employees to perform union work on city time. It's called "release time." The Goldwater Institute is taking on the city's contract with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA). By executing this deal with PLEA, the members of the Phoenix City Council have violated the Arizona Constitution and their duty of loyalty to the taxpayers.

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