The non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) is the Old Dominion State’s version of the Center for Responsive Politics by working to bring greater transparency to money in Virginia politics. VPAP exposes online where candidates get their campaign money. And how they are also shining a light on the role lobbyists play in the process, the first ever systematic profile of lobbyist activity in the state.
In an email announcing the site, David Poole, VPAP’s executive director, tells of how his staff spent three months distilling more than 10,000 pages of lobbyists’ disclosure documents into a database. “The information includes a look at what actions lobbyists sought to influence; what entertainment expenses lobbyists used to build relationships with legislative and executive officials; and how much lobbyists spent in the process,” he writes. They developed the database using information contained in recent annual disclosures covering May 2007 through April 2008. Virginia relies entirely upon public disclosure to monitor contacts between lobbyists and executive and legislative officials, he writes. Amazingly, as long as lobbyists disclose their expenditures, there are no limits on what they spend wining and dining lawmakers and other state officials.
Last week I blogged about the brand new Lobbyist Link, a 50-state database where you can look up all state-registered lobbyists, and their clients. Citizens can now see how much money each lobbyists have given to state lawmakers and candidates. It’s so cool to see all the new tools such as the VPAP database and Lobbyist Link coming online that are allowing citizens to scrutinize what state governments are up to.