California Groups Press for Transparency and Equity in Stimulus Spending

NEW YORK—The Open Society Institute today announced a $500,000 grant to a coalition of groups in California to monitor stimulus spending, encourage public participation in state-level decisions, and advocate for an equitable distribution of recovery funds.

"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the largest federal spending package in history, and it demands close scrutiny," said Ann Beeson, executive director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute. "Strong oversight and advocacy at the state level is critical to ensure that the recovery brings opportunity to all Americans."

The California groups first came together in May to address the state's deepening fiscal crisis. With the grant from the Open Society Institute, the coalition will monitor the distribution of federal recovery dollars and track the outcomes of programs in the communities they serve, and use the information to educate community leaders and press for spending changes when necessary.

The coalition includes the California Alliance, a network of grassroots organizations from around the state that works on tax and fiscal policy issues, the gay rights group Equality California, Mobilize the Vote, a civic engagement group that works in immigrant communities, and the PowerPAC Foundation, which will provide research and data support to the coalition's efforts.

"It will take a grassroots effort to reset the priorities of Sacramento decision-makers," said Anthony Thigpenn of the California Alliance. "The work we do together now is critical in order to set the stage for the long-term effort to rebuild our state."

Beeson said the grantmaking was designed with an eye toward restoring confidence in government.

"Transparency and equity are core values of an open society, and this is a pivotal moment for both in the United States," she said. "The success of the federal stimulus depends upon the ability and willingness of people to hold decision-makers accountable."

The coalition will receive the funds over two years from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, a sister organization of the Open Society Institute. Similar grants were made to groups in New York, Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin and Mississippi. The grants are part of a number of new initiatives the foundation has recently launched in the United States. The Open Society Institute's U.S. Programs recognizes that the challenges to open society are deeply linked, and supports efforts that bring people together across issues and communities to address them.