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The Daily Journal: Millions of Federal Dollars Being Poured Into Local Counties

A Kankakee company sold $203,985 worth of toolboxes to the U.S. Department of Defense between 2003 and 2012.

Meanwhile, a Gilman business earned $36.8 million, between 2005 and 2012, thanks to a federal contract for food, oil and fats.

In nearby Elwood, a construction company benefited from a $579,426 federal contract for canal work in 2008.

And a total of 564 farm subsidy payments were sent to Kankakee in 2011, representing $224,440 for the local economy.

And those are just a few of the findings awaiting visitors to the website openthebooks.com, the brainchild of former Herscher resident Adam Andrzejewski. The one-time candidate for governor has been updating the site since it first opened to bring transparency to Illinois finances. Last week, he launched new pages that document $31 trillion worth of federal payments.

“This has been a soft opening,” he said. “So far, I’ve  done some demos to some think tanks out in Washington. And I showed it to some some farmers in southern Illinois. They showed me a farm with connection to [disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod] Blagojevich, and it received $2 million in grants, loans and subsidies between 2006 and 2011.

“So, I’ll move on to press conferences in Springfield in Chicago in the next couple weeks, and we’ll be fully open then.”

The numbers Andrzejewski has added to his searchable database can yield a variety of scenarios.

• Of the top 17 federal salaries paid in Kankakee, 16 are paid to employees of the Social Security Administration. They range from $50,214 to $104,607.

• Overall, the Veterans Administration pays the highest salaries — with many physicians at the top of the list. The Department of Agriculture is the next most lucrative, and the U.S. Postal Service is slightly lower.

• And, owners of Section 8, federally-subsidized housing can earn annual payments of more than $1 million for a 35-unit facility.

The information can be searched by communities, but these communities are just where the checks are addressed. They might not be the home of the employees. For example, 15 federal paychecks were addressed to Manteno in 2011. All are Veterans Assistant employees, with annual salaries ranging from $34,316 to $158,512.

Again in 2011, there only were seven checks coming to Bourbonnais employees of the departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. Those salaries ranged from $31,315 to $81,779. In Watseka, seven paychecks for employees of the Department of Agriculture provide salaries ranging from $31,315 to $92,732.

“We’re hoping that if we can get 10 million eyes on these records, we can educate voters a little on how this spending affects us all,” Andrzejewski said. Visitors can have two sessions on the website without even creating an account, although there is no charge for creating an account; and the user is able to save searches once the account is set up. There are even free mobile apps for Android or iOS smartphones.

Andrzejewski worked his way through Northern Illinois University and worked with his brother to build a $20 million business, now known as HomePages. He sold his share of the business in 2007 and began to focus on a life of public service.

In 2010, Andrzejewski ran for governor in the Republican primary, with a promise to put “every dime online in real time.” Despite his loss, he founded For the Good of Illinois to fulfill that promise to put all Illinois government spending online.

The American Spectator magazine noted that his openthebooks.com website “may be the smartest thing smartphones have yet produced.”

Terry Yohnka contributed to this story.

Read the whole story here.

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