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Concerned about finances?

You would think that a representative of a conservative think tank would get a pretty good reception from the Lee County Board, which counts 26 Republicans among its 28 members.

But you'd be wrong.

Recently, Brian Costin of the Chicago-based Illinois Policy Institute spoke to the board during its public comment segment. His big push – government openness.

A couple of months ago, his group gave Lee County a failing grade for transparency on its website. The county was far from alone with the low marks. But it didn't sit well with county officials.

Still, why didn't the board at least find some common cause with the institute? After all, the think tank is a constant thorn in the side of the state's Chicago-based political machine. It criticizes state spending and corruption.

Lee County Board members also grumble about Chicago politics. But that didn't lighten the mood when Costin spoke. Perhaps members didn't know about the institute's political bent.

They peppered Costin with questions about the nonprofit group's funding sources.

Costin said the group doesn't reveal its contributors publicly.

"People attack them for supporting us," he told the board.

He added that his group gets no government funding.

That's important. Everyone who contributes does so voluntarily. No one is forced to donate through the imposition of taxes.

If the Lee County Board is so concerned about this group's financial accountability, perhaps it could ask the Lee County Council on Aging and other groups that get money from the county's senior tax levy to provide their complete budgets, so we know how they're spending their money.

Earlier this year, we sought the budget for the Whiteside County Senior Center, which gets tens of thousands in county money annually. But the center told us its budget was private. Legally, it was right.

Of course, Whiteside County could require the release of such information in return for giving taxpayers' money. But it doesn't. Same with Lee County.

We choose whether to contribute to nonprofit groups such as the Illinois Policy Institute. That's not the case with our tax dollars.

Sauk Valley Media reporter David Giuliani covers the Whiteside and Lee county governments, Morrison and other smaller communities. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 


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