Steve Ballmer’s new project sheds light on U.S. Government spending

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a new project, and it may just surprise you.

Ballmer is these days mostly known for owning the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team and a significant Twitter stake, but this week he is taking the wraps off USAFacts, a website chock-full of data related to U.S. Government spending.

The idea is to present the facts around the government, and its use of money, in a simple way that hasn’t been done to date. The New York Times reports that Ballmer has spent over $10 million on the three-year-old project, that includes hiring a team of Seattle-based researchers and giving a grant to the University of Pennsylvania to help gather data. The paper said he is prepared to continue to bankroll the program at an estimated cost of $3-5 million per year.

Ballmer, who describes the site as a 10K for the government, is particularly famous for his appreciation of numbers and data in arguments, which spills over from business into his personal life, too.

“I would like citizens to be able to use this to form intelligent opinions. People can disagree about what to do — I’m not going to tell people what to do,” he told the Times, adding that opinions should be based “on common data sets that are believable.”

USAFacts isn’t available to the public at the time of writing — a holding page says it will open up in “Spring 2017” — but it is expected to go live on Tuesday.

The project was first announced last November — through an interview with Bloomberg — and Ballmer stressed that it is nonpartisan and wholly factual.

Former President Barack Obama opened the veil on government data when he introduced an open data portal that provided some public information, but things are less clear under President Trump. Obama-era data has been archived and cleared, but thus far the Trump administration has neither posted new data nor commented on its plans for the system.

Ballmer said USAFacts takes some data from the White House project, alongside other government sources. The only rule, according to Ballmer, is to avoid information from outside parties in order to remain accurate.