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Integrating Other Data by Bill Allison
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Integrating Other Data by Bill Allison


Bill Allison, Sunlight Foundation editorial director, provides a guide for integrating additional data into your investigative reporting during the free, daylong workshop, "Follow the Money -- …

Bill Allison, Sunlight Foundation editorial director, provides a guide for integrating additional data into your investigative reporting during the free, daylong workshop, "Follow the Money -- Tracking Companies' Influence on Politics."

For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit

Published in Career , News & Politics
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  • 1. Integrating other data It’s not just the contributions
  • 2. Remember what makes a goodstory…  It’s not just one piece of data or one fact  Rather, link together a series of facts that show a story  Lobbying  Legislation  Regulatory actions  Contracting
  • 3. Here are some tools to help you …find out about federal regulatory matters …find out what contributors want from Washington (lobbying records) …find out about federal spending …find out about sources of state data …find out how much you can find out a business
  • 4. On the federal level, regulations matter Companies comment on them Companies lobby on them Politicians rail against them
  • 5. Influence Explorer trackscomments
  • 6. Drill down to individual comments
  • 7. Compare it to their lobbying reports
  • 8. To get details, hop over
  • 9. What are their big lobbyingissues?
  • 10.  Information taken from lobbying reports These show broad issues. If you click the number in the middle column, you can see the detailed descriptions, sometimes including bills and regulations they lobby on
  • 11.  Way down the page, we see they’re monitoring regulations Not always as specific as we’d like It’s good to read through all the specific issues You learn a lot about what government is doing from these You learn a lot about business too
  • 12.  Here is a real rarity Disclosed meeting with U.S. Senators Disclosed topics of meetings Met with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Met with Sen. Claire McCaskill, R-Mo. Discussed Mongolia trip by Blunt Discussed investment in Asia
  • 13. Blunt did go to Mongolia
  • 14. He’s also a top recipient ofPeabody Energy donations Not surprising, he’s the home Senator McCaskill not listed, Talent is
  • 15. A May 27, 2008, wikileaks cable  Peabody officials in Mongolia  Seeking concessions to mine there  Peabody met with opposition leaders  What is Blunt talking about there three years later?
  • 16. Who’s lobbying for them?
  • 17. Former staffers, members ofCongress, administration officials  Click yellow icon for revolvers  Red icon is for ex- members only  Click icons to get profiles
  • 18. Revolving door profile  A lobbyist for Peabody Energy  Works for K&L Gates  Former staffer for Max Baucus  Former Senate Finance staffer
  • 19. What can we find at the statelevel?  Be aware that there’s no uniformity among state lobbying disclosure  Some are similar to federal disclosures  Others show only wining & dining of lawmakers  Some show less than that
  • 20. Not the most user-friendly database Look up organizations in one place to see who they hire… Then search in another place for what they’re doing You need to keep a lot of tabs open on your browser…
  • 21. Go someplace else to search…
  • 22. Results!  And they’re not pretty  Have to click through each monthly report  Some might useful, some aren’t  NIMSP is looking at the problem  But with 50 different systems to tackle…
  • 23. Have to do this the old fashionedway  Have to click through every report  I did so you won’t have to  Here’s what’s disclosed in Missouri…
  • 24. Some info on contacts  Lawmakers and spouses named  Expenses reported  Under groups, sometimes whole committees are wined & dined
  • 25. At the very bottom… …we see who put up the massive sum of $180. Note that we don’t see lobbying fees Note that, unlike federal lobbying, issues aren’t reported At least you have enough information to know who to call
  • 26. Some good resources fornavigating what’s available  NIMSP has a run down of all state laws on lobbying disclosure  National Conference on State Legislatures has pages too  Groups that do a lot of lobbying, like Assoc. Builders & Contractors, have lists & links too
  • 27. Why this is important Companies you cover can have issues in multiple states Their bottom lines can be affected by decisions made far from their headquarters
  • 28. A few other resources…  is a hugely useful reference on gov’t data sets  Even if you’re not from Missouri, it’s worth looking at  Get ideas for data sets that might be available in your state…
  • 29.  Assessments of state laws on…  Lobbying  Ethics  Campaign contributions  Budgeting  Pensions  And more…
  • 30. And always, feel free tocontact meBill AllisonEditorial DirectorSunlight 202-742-1520 ext 224@bill_allison