3Q: In Song Kim’s LobbyView.org shines a bright light on Washington lobbying
LobbyView.org makes it simple to follow the path of money in politics.
"Various students have been involved in this project through UROP [MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program], or through group projects in the class. And I’m looking forward to expanding this database to cover campaign contributions in electoral politics, so money in politics can be further studied by researchers and students at MIT."
—In Song Kim, Associate Professor of Political Science
Follow the money. It’s a famous phrase from the Watergate era, but it applies to everyday life in modern Washington as well. That advice just got easier for everyone to carry out, thanks to the launch of LobbyView.org, a new public database created by MIT political scientist In Song Kim.
LobbyView.org has 1.2 million public records of congressional lobbying, and a flexible interface designed to make research simple. MIT News spoke with Kim, the Class of 1956 Career Development Associate Professor of Political Science, about the project.
Q: What is LobbyView.org, and how did you create it?
A: LobbyView.org is a publicly available online database where researchers and journalists and others who are interested in politics will be able to search the universe of the political activities that have been filed and reported, so that they can understand how legislative politics, especially, works in the U.S. For example, people can easily search how, and to what extent, firms engage in political activities.
There is a legal requirement that any lobbyist or lobbying firm representing clients disclose lobbying activities performed on behalf of those clients. Such information has been available in the form of lobbying reports that are filed quarterly. Currently there are more than 1.2 million reports that have been filed since 1999. I downloaded the files from the Senate Office of Public Records and then developed a program to automatically parse those reports. LobbyView enables users to easily search and download a massive amount of lobbying data based on firms’ names, content of lobbying, legislative bills, and politicians’ names. So researchers can examine how private interests are reflected in actual policymaking and which political networks dominate legislative politics in certain issue domains.