Better Government Association (Chicago, IL)


  • Name:Mary Frances O'Connor
  • Title:Director of Development & External Relations

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Better Government Association
  • Address:223 W Jackson Blvd
    Suite 900
    Chicago, IL 60606
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:3128219026

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • The BGA, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.

  • Overview:
  • The BGA measures performance and success by the number of investigations we conduct, the impact of those investigations in prompting policy changes and government reforms, and the number of citizens we inform and engage. Since its revitalization in 2009, the BGA has racked up results:

    • 335 investigations with 25 media partners
    • 98 concrete reforms and results
    • $50 million-plus in taxpayer savings over several years
    • 10,000 citizens informed and engaged at trainings, forums and events • 20 journalism awards
    • 6 "Spotlight on Good Government" stories

    Investigations - Six full-time investigators and several freelance journalists continuously investigate dozens of allegations of fraud, corruption and mismanagement in government. These investigations are published in collaboration with television, radio, newspaper, and online news operations and magazines across the state. BGA investigations have resulted in 98 concrete reforms that will save taxpayers an estimated $50 million over several years.

    BGA investigations include our Rescuing Illinois Project, an ambitious campaign with long- lasting impact on state and local governments in Illinois. Through this project, the BGA explores structural and systemic problems that negatively impact government transparency, efficiency and honesty. The goal is to restore the long-term financial and ethical health of Illinois government. In the past year, Rescuing Illinois investigations exposed abuses in the public pension systems and tallied the enormous financial toll of police misconduct cases. We found the City of Chicago spent more than half a billion dollars on police misconduct cases over the past decade, and only a fraction of those payouts were related to the torturous unit run by Chicago Cmdr. Jon Burge.

    Open and transparent government doesn't always come easily. When BGA investigators struggle to access public records by using FOIA requests, they're forced to demand them through legal action. In March 2014, the BGA hired a part-time outside general counsel to assist with business and media law issues, provide legal support to the BGA policy team and assist the BGA's investigative staff with FOIA issues. Since hiring this outside counsel, the BGA has taken 13 legal actions to force open government. In the past five years, the BGA has filed 31 legal actions, including 21 lawsuits.

    Policy & Advocacy - The BGA's Policy & Advocacy Unit follows up on the work of the Investigative Unit to create advocacy strategies and civic engagement campaigns. The Policy Unit monitors and analyzes policy proposals and researches best practices. BGA strategies inform and influence local and state decision-making on public policies. Policy also handles government relations and public policy issues; collaborates with allied groups; conducts education and training events; and schedules and facilitates meetings with legislators, civic leaders and other key stakeholders involved with identified issues. Simply put, the BGA's Policy & Advocacy Unit works for reform. In recent months, we saw legislative progress on two reform efforts. In August, Gov. Quinn signed a bill designed to eliminate unnecessary units of government. In June, Gov. Quinn vetoed a bill that would have weakened the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The BGA supported both actions.

    Civic Engagement - In addition to our investigative and policy work, the BGA works to educate, engage and mobilize the public through our civic engagement programming, which includes: Citizen Watchdog Training, Citizen Watchdogs of Education, Free FOIA Clinics and BGA Idea Forums. These free events and trainings, which are open to the public, provide citizens with an understanding of their rights and the tools they need to take action and demand an honest and efficient government. We believe that if citizens keep a close eye on government, government will do a better job of serving them. The BGA, in tandem with local groups, designs trainings and tailors them to specific communities in order to address relevant issues. The programs offer citizens the support of the BGA to learn how to gather accurate information; tap into the BGA's resources for accessing information and litigating, if necessary; and, where needed, to collaborate on reform efforts. Through these programs and speaking engagements, the BGA has engaged in person with some 10,000 people.

  • History:
  • The BGA, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.

    In 2009, the BGA expanded its mission to go beyond investigative journalism to include a vision for advocacy and civic engagement. We're not only exposing problems in government, but we're proposing solutions. We operate on the premise that Illinoisans are committed to taking action in demanding honest and efficient government in responsible ways if supported with reliable, fact-based information and effective advocacy tools.

    Over the past five years, the BGA has experienced a tremendous revitalization, expanding its staff from two employees to 20 full- and part-time workers and growing its budget from $300,000 to more than $2.6 million. Since 2009, the BGA has researched and reported more than 335 investigations of fraud, corruption and mismanagement in government. We then build upon these investigations to prompt policy reform and encourage responsible civic engagement.

  • Year established:1923
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:47
  • Advisory board size:
  • Staff size:


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:Operating
  • Tax ID:36-0802950

Other Organization Web

IRS Business Master File Information

  • EIN:360802950
  • Sort (Secondary) Name:
  • Care Of Name:% EMMETT MURPHY
  • Organization Address:223 W JACKSON STE 900
  • Organization City:CHICAGO
  • Organization State:IL
  • Organization Zip:60606-6908
  • Group Exemption Number:0000
  • Subsection Code:03
  • Classification Code(s):2
  • Subsection/Classification Desc.:Educational Organization
  • Affiliation Code:3
  • Ruling Date:May, 1950
  • Deductibility Code:1
  • Foundation Code:16
  • Foundation Code Desc.:Organization that normally receives no more than one third of its support from gross investment income and unrelated business income and at the same time more than one third of its support from contributions, fees, and gross receipts related to exempt purposes. 509(a)(2)
  • Activity Code(s):161, 180, 059
  • Activity Code Desc.(s):Scientific research (diseases), Contact or sponsored scientific research for industry, Other school related activities
  • Organization Code:1 (Corporation)
  • Exempt Org. Status Code:01 (Unconditional Exemption)
  • Tax Period:December, 2016
  • Filing Requirement Category:01 (990 (all other) or 990EZ return)
  • Accounting Period:December
  • NTEE Code:W20Z
  • Asset Amount:$4,589,613
  • Asset Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • Income Amount:$4,781,407
  • Income Code:6 ($1,000,000 - $4,999,999)
  • 990 Revenue Amount:$3,487,026
  • Last Updated:2/19/2018 9:45:24 pm

This information is directly from the IRS Exempt Organization Business Master File at Exempt Organizations Business Master File Extract. This information is not under the control of the Common Grant Application and is collected and compiled and can only be changed by the IRS.