Adam Andrzejewski’s Transparency Revolution
By Hinsdale Magazine
We recently talked with Adam Andrzejewski (pronounced Angieeff-ski) and his interest in greater transparency in government spending, by establishing his website “Open The Books”. Adam, 51, explains “I’ve always believed in family, faith and small towns. As the oldest of seven children, I grew up in Herscher, a rural farming community a few miles southwest of Kankakee. Working on family farms, I developed a strong work ethic by walking beans, detasseling corn, and baling hay.” According to Adam, in 1976 and 1978, his father ran for state
representative against George Ryan and in those days, the Kankakee County Republican machine rivaled the Daley machine in Chicago. John Andrzejewski lost those races, but his campaigns instilled in Adam the courage to take on public corruption. However, first, Andrzejewski established himself as an entrepreneur. It didn’t come easy. As he explains, “There were many nights when I rolled up my coat as a pillow and slept on the office floor while working around the clock.” With his brother, within 10 years, they founded and sold their $20 million publishing company. Since then, Andrzejewski has dedicated his life to public service. In 2010, when his three daughters were toddlers, he ran for governor of Illinois on a transparency platform, “Every Dime. Online. In Real Time.” After a primary election loss, he didn’t stop, but took Mother Theresa’s advice, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” While it’s not always easy being the only man in the house with three teenage girls, Ellie, Molly, and Emma Kate, he says his girls consider him to be the most positive and supportive dad.
Adam has really enjoyed being married to his wife Kerry since 2000 and is proud of the fact that he is very present at home. He says, “Our family dinners are a high priority and an opportunity to communicate a lot of life lessons. We also share a lot of laughs.” However, Kerry and Adam try not to put pressure on the girls. Being an Andrzejewski is pressure enough. As he sees it, the American dream is to have it all – a healthy, happy family, successful business, and a bright future. “But”, as he explains, “I also want to change the world. In 2011, I founded OpenTheBooks.com dedicated to posting all government spending online. Launching in Illinois I posted online every public employee salary and pension record – an historic first. Immediately, the exposure led to grand juries, indictments, and convictions.” “We do this, because it’s your money, and you deserve to see where every dime is spent by your government.” Last year, OpenTheBooks filed 40,000 Freedom of Information Act requests, the most in American history. The effort successfully captured $6 trillion in federal, state, and local government expenditures. It’s the world’s largest database of public-sector spending. “We believe that transparency revolutionizes U.S. public policy and politics.” Andrzejewski explains, “Our group is a non-profit, public charity. Not only do we ‘open the books,’ we
audit them, and our investigations make national news:
• In 2020, The President’s Budget To Congress cited two of Andrzejewski’s oversight reports.
• In 2019, the OpenTheBooks interactive map of human waste in the public way in San Francisco made international news, trended on national Twitter, and helped reframe the debate on the homeless.
• In 2017, at The Wall Street Journal, his group exposed the eight Ivy League colleges who reaped $42 billion in taxpayer subsidies, payments, and tax breaks during a six-year period. This led to a new federal tax on their excessive endowments.
• In 2016, Good Morning America and ABC World News Tonight highlighted the group’s investigation that exposed the $20 million high-end luxury art portfolio at Veterans Affairs. Soon after, then-VA Secretary Robert McDonald apologized and stopped the pricey art purchases.”
He is proud of saying, “I am spearheading the revolution – that is, the transparency revolution.”
*Photos provided by Adam Andrzejewski