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Tag Archive: Senate Office of Public Records

Measuring Lobbyists with Raspberry Pi

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A few of us in the labs dabble in hardware hacking, and we were all pretty excited by the debut of the Raspberry Pi. So when we saw that MAKE Magazine was running a contest for creative uses of the Pi, we figured we'd better enter. As it happens, I had picked up a handsome vintage voltmeter at Uncommon Objects during a recent trip to Austin, and had been toying with the idea of making it Pi-enabled. With this competition for inspiration I decided to take the plunge.

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Lobbying data is public but not reliably searchable

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The 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, requires all lobbyists to file reports with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate and that those two offices “maximize public access” to the documents through “computerized systems.” But the searchable database of every filing by registered federal lobbyists, made available through the Senate’s Office of Public Records, has a major problem: its search engine doesn’t work correctly.

One issue is reliability — searches by a wide array of Center reporters have frequently yielded false negatives or been stymied by system outages. In fact, a registrant search for “American ...

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Timely disclosure fail

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I'll be posting some info on where we are with new lobbying clients in the first quarter of 2009, but in the meantime (and with apologies to the sometimes work unsafe Fail Blog), thought I'd post one of the search results I came across while going through the Senate Office of Public Records lobbying database (click the image to see it larger):

According to the disclosure form, the effective date of registration was Jan. 1, 2002. It showed up on the Senate site on March 29, 2009, a mere 87 months late. I'm not sure whether this ...

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Senate Provides Better Tool for Tracking Lobbyists

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The Senate Office of Public Records launched an enhanced database for lobbying disclosure on New Year's Eve, one that allows users for the first time to search previously unsearchable fields like "specific lobbying issue." What this means is that you can plug in a bill number -- say S. 681, the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act -- and find out that 19 organizations disclosed lobbying on the bill, including top political donors Citigroup, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, Exxon Mobil and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Perhaps it should be expected that the Swiss Bankers Association also has an interest in the legislation... Pam Gavin, SOPR's Superintendent of Public Records, says that about 90 percent of the 2007 mid-year lobbying reports are fully searchable, and going forward in 2008, 100 percent of them will be. She also helpfully pointed out that the whole database is now downloadable, year by year--the data is available here. Note: If you're having trouble seeing the new site, you might want to empty your cache.

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Computer Glitch Prevents Searching for Individual Lobbyist Names

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In the Senate the lobbying data is maintained by the Senate Office of Public Records (SOPR) which currently enters the lobbyist disclosure reports filed on paper into a database. Did you know -- I just learned this -- that electronic disclosure has been required for lobbyist reports since 1995, but still hasn't been fully implemented?! An apparent glitch in SOPR's computer system is currently preventing the public from searching for individual lobbyists, as well as for issues that interests have reported lobbying on in 2007. How beyond ridiculous is this?

It's absurd because whether the Democrats or the GOP control Congress, lobbyists often set the table. Industry lobbyists make sure that their clients' interests are tended to, no matter who runs the Congress. The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed reports filed last month and found lobbyists spending has topped $1.24 billion in the first six months of this year. For perspective, lobbyists spend a record amount of $2.61 billion throughout 2006. CRP's analysis found:

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