States of Transparency: Alaska


The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we’re reviewing each state’s efforts in this direction.

This week: Alaska

During her 2008 vice presidential bid, Sarah Palin touted Alaska’s so-called “Checkbook Online” as a model of transparency. It’s a great way to find out how the state is spending its money, but the site offers few other features. We can’t find out how much cash state employees bring home because in Alaska, unlike in several other states, that information is considered confidential. Revenues and tax breaks are missing, too, although you can get a bird’s eye view of state revenues on another department’s website.

Reporters can find some interesting tidbits in the travel reports for state executives, too; but forget about downloading and analyzing this data. It’s in PDF format.

Timeliness: Alaska Checkbook is updated monthly.

Downloadability: Users can export expenditure data in Excel format.

Expenditures: While expenditures aren’t sortable and searchable on the site itself, the people behind Alaska Checkbook give us what matters: the ability to download all the data. Each Excel file lists expenditures over $1,000, with several tabs that sort payments for you by vendor, account code or department code. These payments are classified by category — for instance, “airfare” or “software maintenance.” So for example, we learn that in July, the Governor’s office paid the National Governor’s Association $37,900 for “memberships.” (We aren’t clued in as to how many memberships this sum buys).

Revenues: Overviews are available on a separate site.

Contracts: Contract data is rolled up with expenditures.

Payroll data: Not available.

Tax breaks: Not available.