After winning re-election in 2014 to a second four-year term, Ohio’s Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel has led the fight to make his state’s finances more transparent. During his first term he worked to create a new, first-of-its-kind platform called The Transparency Project at Ohiocheckbook.com. The Transparency Project not only shows every transaction the Ohio State Government has made since 2008 but lets users search by department, project, agency, or official. It uses interactive graphs that are easy to read and understand so that Ohio citizens can find exactly where their tax dollars are going.
The website took 18 months to build and cost $814,000, but Mandel believes the website will pay for itself since public officials will now think twice before wasting taxpayer money.
“It makes public officials think twice before they go to a conference in Hawaii — when they could have gone to conference in Cincinnati,” Mandel told GovTech.com. “And it makes them think twice before they stay at the Ritz Carlton on the taxpayer’s dime.”
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s annual “Following the Money” report ranks OhioCheckbook.com as the number one database in 2014, awarding it an A+ with 100 points. The website was praised for its “cutting edge technology” and “user-friendliness” in the report. It took Ohio’s online transparency ranking from next to last in the country to number one in 2015.
Mandel is now working on adding each Ohio county’s finances to the site as well, allowing voters to hold their locally elected officials accountable for their financial decisions. This new platform puts Ohio at the top of the list for government transparency and Mandel says he hopes more states will follow this example and create easy to access databases of their own. Mandel said in his press release announcing the project, “my vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who are empowered to hold public officials accountable.”
This is not the first time Mandel has served his fellow Ohioans or his country. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves where he graduated first in his class in boot camp and in Marine Corps Intelligence School. He then served 2 tours in Iraq as an Intelligence Specialist.
In 2003, Mandel was first elected as city councilman in Lyndhurst, Ohio and served three years on the financial committee. He then ran for state representative in 2006. He knocked on 19,679 doors and wore out three pairs of shoes to win the election. He was re-elected in 2008 to a second term, representing a district with a two-to-one Democrat to Republican voter registration advantage. In 2010, he was elected to his first term as state treasurer.
Mandel has led the charge in the race toward government fiscal transparency. In recognition for this leadership he has been named legislative “Rookie of the Year” by the nonpartisan Columbus Monthly Magazine and “Watchdog of the Treasury” by the United Conservatives of Ohio. Ohiocheckbook.com serves as a great model for fiscal transparency and hopefully more state treasurers will follow Mandel’s example.
Ashley Craig is the Digital Director for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @aacraig1280.