Integrating Other Data by Bill Allison


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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

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Integrating Other Data by Bill Allison

  1. 1. Integrating other data It’s not just the contributions
  2. 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. 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. 4. On the federal level, regulations matter Companies comment on them Companies lobby on them Politicians rail against them
  5. 5. Influence Explorer trackscomments
  6. 6. Drill down to individual comments
  7. 7. Compare it to their lobbying reports
  8. 8. To get details, hop over
  9. 9. What are their big lobbyingissues?
  10. 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. 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. 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. 13. Blunt did go to Mongolia
  14. 14. He’s also a top recipient ofPeabody Energy donations Not surprising, he’s the home Senator McCaskill not listed, Talent is
  15. 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. 16. Who’s lobbying for them?
  17. 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. 18. Revolving door profile  A lobbyist for Peabody Energy  Works for K&L Gates  Former staffer for Max Baucus  Former Senate Finance staffer
  19. 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. 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. 21. Go someplace else to search…
  22. 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. 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. 24. Some info on contacts  Lawmakers and spouses named  Expenses reported  Under groups, sometimes whole committees are wined & dined
  25. 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. 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. 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. 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. 29.  Assessments of state laws on…  Lobbying  Ethics  Campaign contributions  Budgeting  Pensions  And more…
  30. 30. And always, feel free tocontact meBill AllisonEditorial DirectorSunlight 202-742-1520 ext 224@bill_allison