The Project on Government Oversight, Inc.

aka POGO   |   Washington, DC   |  http://www.pogo.org

Mission

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing. We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.

Notes from the nonprofit

It has been a year like few others, between the pandemic, the incredible grassroots movement towards police reform and racial justice, and the 2020 election followed by the assault on the Capitol. Through it all POGO continued to work to secure accountability within our federal government. Our work allowed accountability measure to be included within the CARES Act and other pandemic response spending, and when those efforts seemed to be compromised, we created our own instrument to ensure accountability. We also continued to work with decision makers to promote reforms to strengthen the inspector general system, and this dialogue is showing dividends with our repeated appearances testifying before Congress (18 times in 2021). Thank you to our community of supporters whose belief in the value of our work and goals allowed this to happen.

Ruling year info

1991

Executive Director

Ms. Danielle Brian

Main address

1100 13th Street NW Suite 800

Washington, DC 20005 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

52-1739443

NTEE code info

Government and Public Administration (W20)

Public Finance, Taxation, Monetary Policy (W22)

Alliance/Advocacy Organizations (R01)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

America's democratic government has been slowly eroding over the course of many decades, and is often failing to serve the public interest. The revolving door between industry representatives and government officials has eroded trust that the government will act on the people’s behalf, and those with power and wealth have a bigger hand in shaping our national policies than the American people. More often than not, this results in policies that benefits those who are politically-connected and leaves behind those of us in the greatest need. It is critical that we expose corruption and abuse of power, implement reforms that address these systemic failures, and prevent democratic backsliding from happening in the future.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Open Government & Whistleblower Protections

Excessive government secrecy erodes public confidence in government. And that secrecy typically has less to do with matters of national security and more to do with hiding corruption, wrongdoing, or gross mismanagement. POGO is working to advance reforms that will enhance the robust implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, as well as reforms that will make more government information disclosed proactively.

Whistleblowers play a vital role in exposing corruption and other misconduct by the federal government and its contractors. The public relies on these brave and honest employees to be the first line of defense in exposing corruption, abuse of power, wasteful spending, lax safety or security practices, dangerous products, and other abuses. Unfortunately, whistleblowers are almost always reprimanded, fired, and/or harassed, even if they have not “gone public” and even after their allegations are proven correct. This can discourage whistleblowers from coming forward and prevent abuses from ever being exposed. POGO works to strengthen laws and regulations to protect these people from intimidation and retaliation and ensure whistleblowers can safely report wrongdoing.

POGO also works on good government reforms that will improve all three branches of the federal government, including ensuring independent inspectors general, crafting effective ethics rules that will reduce the influence of industry in policy-making, and working towards greater transparency so that the government is responsive and accountable to the American people.

Population(s) Served

In 2012, POGO added the Center for Defense Information (CDI) to our ranks. The program aims aims to secure a far more effective and ethical military at a significantly lower cost.

We investigate wasteful spending on ineffective military infrastructure, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and focus on creating a more effective national security policy that protects our country and the people fighting for it, rather than one that lines the pockets of defense contractors. We advocate for ethics reforms in the Department of Defense, track the revolving door between defense contractors and the Pentagon, and push for a more transparent and accountable military infrastructure. Our program builds towards a Pentagon that makes spending decisions based on national security needs, not on the profit motives of defense contractors.

Population(s) Served

In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, and in the wake of massive government spending to address economic decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased need to provide a look at the nexus between Washington and Wall Street in deciding where to spend federal dollars, and how to track them. POGO investigates the revolving door, self-regulatory organizations, and other conflicts of interest, and works to make federal financial regulatory agencies more transparent, effective, and accountable.

Population(s) Served

The federal government is the steward of public lands, and it is under constant pressure from industries to allow them to extract natural resources from this land for little return to the taxpayers. The result has been a veritable fire sale on the nation’s oil, natural gas, and other resources. POGO works to make the federal government more accountable to the U.S. taxpayer. Furthermore, the federal regulator of the nation’s nuclear power facilities has often been too cozy with the industry it oversees. POGO has successfully made practical recommendations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to increase security at these facilities.

Population(s) Served

The use of contractors to provide services to the federal government has grown dramatically since the start of the last decade. According to USAspending.gov, in FY 2000 contract spending was approximately $200 billion, and in FY 2011 contract spending exceeded $535 billion, the majority of which was spent on services. POGO investigations have found that these contractor services cost almost two times more—and in the case of the Pentagon as much as six times more—what it would cost if the same work was performed by a federal employee. The move to “smaller government” by outsourcing work has in fact created an enormous shadow government of contractors that are largely or entirely dependent on taxpayers for their revenues.

Population(s) Served

In 2017, POGO added The Constitution Project to our ranks. This program safeguards constitutional rights that are threatened by abuse of the government’s national security and domestic policing powers focusing on:
1) Ensuring that the government exercises its immigration authority in a fair and humane manner in accordance with constitutional principles.
2) Safeguarding individual rights when threatened by the use and abuse of excessive government surveillance and emerging technologies (i.e. facial recognition or drone aerial surveillance)
3) Ensure an independent judiciary that the public has confidence in. This includes pushing for a Supreme Court code of ethics, reforming the federal judicial selection process, and improving transparency and accountability within the federal court system.

Population(s) Served

POGO's Congressional Oversight Initiative trains legislative staff members from both sides of the aisle to provide them the practical knowledge and skills they need to use congressional oversight powers responsibly and effectively, improving Congressional investigations and fostering bipartisan cooperation.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Accreditations

Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance Charity Seal 2021

Charity Navigator 4 Stars 2021

Great Non Profits 2021 Top Rated 2021

Charity Watch-Top Rated 2021

Awards

National Sunshine Award 2009

Society of Professional Journalists

Phyllis McCarthy Public Interest Award 2012

Public Citizen

Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Journalism Award 2015

Society of Professional Journalists D.C. Chapter

Reed Award-Best Civic Education Resource 2020

Campaigns and Elections

UI Design, UX Design and for Innovation 2021

CSS Design

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Since 1981, The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has been exposing instances of government corruption and advocating for solutions to fix them.

By working with whistleblowers and other inside sources, POGO investigates government misconduct and conflicts of interest in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

One of POGO's core aims is to uncover and root out corruption in the halls of power.

A lot of nonprofits work to fix the problem with money in politics. POGO works to fix the problem with money in policy.

In between elections, the money spigot doesn't turn off. Billions of dollars are spent each year by powerful interests in order to gain access to decision-makers in government in an attempt to influence their policies.

This undue influence is a threat to democracy. And it's the reason POGO exists.

The organization focuses on investigating areas that are especially vulnerable to outside special interests, including contract oversight; energy and natural resources; the financial sector; national security; public health and science; and whistleblower protections. We then work to craft reforms that address the systemic problems our investigations uncover.

Our ultimate goal is to achieve lasting good government reforms that ensure the government responsive to the people it serves.

POGO is unique insofar as it not only investigates government corruption, it also identifies and advocates solutions to fix the problems.

There are many journalists working to expose government misconduct. And there are some nonprofits fighting for better government. But POGO does both.

POGO's investigations raise public awareness and have won numerous journalism awards. Its staff frequently testifies before Congress and POGO's advocacy over the years has resulted in many pieces of Congressional legislation and actions in support of good governance.

In addition to exposing corruption, POGO works to strengthen good government infrastructure. For example, on Capitol Hill, POGO trains Congressional staff on how to conduct effective oversight through its Congressional Training Programs. It helps members of Congress work on identifying fraud, waste, and abuse in other parts of the government by ensuring that there will always be people who know how to conduct oversight in the House and Senate. POGO hosts boot camps and monthly question and answer sessions for staffers from both parties about utilizing the many resources at their disposal. POGO also produces a free handbook on how to conduct oversight.

POGO is home to the Center for Defense Information (CDI) and the Straus Military Reform project to secure more effective and ethical military forces at significantly lower cost. This ambitious goal is advanced by the independent counsel and practical military experience of the CDI's Military Advisory Board.

Finally, POGO merged in 2017 with The Constitution Project (TCP) which aims to protect Constitutional rights and civil liberties, and safeguard America's courts.

More generally, POGO accomplishes its mission by spreading its message widely across traditional and social media to maximize outreach, and by collaborating with like-minded partners to provide solutions to the problems it investigates. Its investigators are often asked to testify before Congress. In 2019 alone, POGO's staff testified before Congress twelve times.

POGO is uniquely positioned as a nonpartisan, independent watchdog. The organization accepts no money from government or industry.

For more than three decades, POGO has established a reputation for high-quality independent reporting and the protection of whistleblowers. Despite break-ins and threats of subpoenas, POGO has always protected the identity of whistleblowers that contacted the group. Its reporting has withstood a great deal of scrutiny, especially regarding controversial topics like the Pentagon's wasteful F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the revolving door between public officials and government contractors.

POGO has a successful model for our work: our award-winning investigations team works to expose wrongdoing. Our public policy team pushes for policy reforms that address the systemic problems we uncover and make our democracy more responsive to the people.

Our reputation as an honest broker attracts current and former decision makers and other government insiders and allows us to facilitate conversations and advocacy efforts among likely and unlikely allies across the political spectrum to advance our work and make a measurable impact. Our work has led to the passage of major laws including the STOCK Act of 2012, Inspectors General Empowerment Act of 2016, the All Circuits Review Act of 2018.

The organization does not knowingly accept contributions from anyone who stands to benefit financially from its work. POGO does not accept contributions from any government, labor union, or for-profit corporation exceeding $100, and limits contributions from law firms to less than 1% of its operating budget.

POGO has had four decades of successes exposing government corruption, waste, and fraud and have been instrumental

-Passage of whistleblower reform. After extensive advocacy work from POGO, the All Circuits Review Act in July 2018 was signed into law. The legislation gave federal whistleblowers permanent avenues to appeal administrative cases in federal courts in the area they live and work, rather than having to personally cover time and travel costs to appeal in Washington, D.C. before the DC circuit, which is notoriously unfriendly to whistleblowers.

-Published survival guide for federal whistleblowers. POGO, along with our partners GAP and PEER, launched a whistleblower portal that consolidates our whistleblower guide with tips on how to blow the whistle safely, an e-course, tips on data security, and a list of legal resources. In 2020, this resource won the Reed Award for “Best Civic Education Resource” in the Grassroots category.

-Ensured oversight of COVID-19 crisis response spending. In light of the pandemic in 2020, and the resulting economic upheaval, POGO worked to ensure that the CARES Act - one of the largest federal spending programs in history, would have oversight measures included in the bill. We also launched our independent COVID-19 relief spending tracker, which provides one of the most detailed look at federal coronvirus spending available, with over 16 million transactions. The tracker helped us uncover dozens of investigative stories on fraud, corruption, and mismanagement of that federal spending.

-Launched a Revolving Door Database and an accompanying report Brass Parachutes: Defense Contractors’ Capture of Pentagon Officials Through the Revolving Door. The database tracks senior Pentagon officials and military officers who have gone to work for Pentagon contractors, lobbying firms, and consultants who bid for Department of Defense contracts. The data shined a light on the massive potential for fraud and abuse in the defense industry, and makes a strong case for updated laws.

-Protected Anti-Revolving Door Legislation from being rolled back in National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). POGO led a coalition of organizations working to defeat a proposal by the Department of Defense to weaken restrictions on senior Pentagon officials becoming lobbyists. POGO a mobilized our supporters to send letters to their senators. We worked directly with lawmakers to offer an amendment to strike the Pentagon’s request. As a result, this important check on the revolving door remains in place.

-Broke news that oversight failures in the auditing industry is putting the economy at risk. POGO’s award winning investigators uncovered a revolving door between the “Big Four” auditing companies and a little-known, secretive agency the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board that has resulted in the agency failing to address botched audits and putting the economy at risk.

Financials

The Project on Government Oversight, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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The Project on Government Oversight, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 11/08/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Nithi Vivatrat

Chief Product Officer, Socially Determined

Term: 2021 - 2024

David Hunter

Washington College of Law, American University

Anne Zill

Center for Ethics in Action, University of New England

Dina Rasor

Bauman and Rasor Group

Michael Cavallo

C40 Cities, William J. Clinton Foundation

Ryan Alexander

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Lisa Baumgartner Bonds

Lutheran Community Foundation (LCF)

Henry Banta

Lobel, Novins & Lamont

Nithi Vivatrat

Intellai

Andrew Cockburn

Harper's Magazine

Debra Katz

Katz, Marshall and Banks

Mickey Edwards

Aspen Institute

Sarah Chayes

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Lia Epperson

American University Washington College of Law

Armando Gomez

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Norman Ornstein

American Enterprise Institute

Virginia "Ginny" Sloan

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 1/6/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 01/06/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.