Tax-Financed Non-Profit Transparency


That’s the best word to use when talking about transparency of most not-for-profit organizations.

If they are financed with government money, however, I have argued since the 1970’s that they should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

[caMy bill that went nowhere, but did inspired an editorial cartoon in the Daily Herald, would have put any non-profit under the FOIA if it got more than half of its money from governmental sources.

Local, state, Federal, it wouldn’t make any difference.

Perhaps my vision for transparency should now be broadened to include not-for-profits created by governmental entities.

Last month the Chicago Sun-Times reported on patronage hiring, plus raises and contracts for political favorites at Navy Pier, Inc., a not-for-profit created by the governmental McPier Board to run Navy Pier.  (There are stories on salaries and the tourism agency as well.)

Navy Pier was on the port side of the Family PAC boat heading into Lake Michigan.

Navy Pier was on the port side on this Family PAC cruise heading into Lake Michigan.

But it’s not just Chicago quasi-governmental entities that need the light of day.

The McHenry County Conservation District’s Foundation financed the last two bond campaigns. I think the public should be able to see what’s going on, especially since the Foundation was started with $1 million of what I think should have been put in the taxpayers’ McHenry County Conservation District treasury.

The McHenry County College Foundation also financed MCC’s last referendum campaign my memory is telling me.

There are other examples, of course, which are certainly not all campaign related.


Tax-Financed Non-Profit Transparency — 14 Comments

  1. A great example of “Not” is the Crime Stoppers for McHenry County.

    It operates on a super-secret basis.

    It is virtually impossible to find out who is on the Board or how it distributes the thousands of dollars received annually from the McHenry County Courts.

    It advertises rewards “up to $1,000” but, in one year, averaged only $300 and not on very many rewards.

  2. Speaking of non-profits started by government bodies, the Grafton Township Food Pantry is not subject to the FOIA laws despite being run by a township trustee and started by a township supervisor in a township building and employing township employees.

  3. Why just non-profits?

    Shouldn’t for-profit hospitals or nursing homes be subject to FOIA?

    What about corporations like CME or Sears, who get huge tax breaks?

    The focus on non-profits is just strange to me.

  4. IRS Forms 990 (“Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax”) say on their faces: SUBJECT TO PUBLIC INSPECTION.

    And they are. They’re most readily reviewed through

    Here’s a link to the 2012 return (which is the most recent one available) of the McHenry County Conservation Foundation:

    And here’s the one for the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation:

    Through Guidestar, one can examine thousands of nonprofit returns from throughout the country. Guidestar offers the three most recent returns for free. (However, one must register with Guidestar first.) Through their subscription service, it’s possible to look back as far as 2009.

    Some returns are missing. Some organizations should be filing but aren’t. And perhaps some don’t have to file. In any event, Guidestar is a terrific resource.

  5. Whatever the focus is, transparency is just part of the solution to preventing corruption.

    Crime stoppers should required to provide full disclosure of incoming profits and outgoing fees to run the organization.

    The people of McHenry County have the right to know…

  6. Pioneer Center is a perfect example.

    Funded almost entirely by tax payer money ( Millions) but you cannot contact their Board of directors.

    Many of the agencies involved and paid by the Mental Health Board with tax payer dollars are not accountable to anyone.

    It’s a get while the getting is good for the employees while people in need do not get services as they should.

    But politicians sure love to take pictures next to folks from Pioneer center.

  7. It’s time for full disclosure….

    We need to find a way to make transparency a requirement for government facilities to do business in McHenry County.

    No more hiding behind the scenes.

    The people need to take responsibility for change to happen…

  8. Duncan, does your call for full disclosure apply to political contributions through PACs from corporations for example?

    How about disclosure of contributions to bloggers with political agendas?

  9. Take a look at For the Good of Illinois” and how they recently uncovered the massive corruption & coverup at College of DuPage!

    I contacted them and suggest they investigate MCC!

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