Chicago Lobbyists
December 6, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Chicago Lobbyists
Chicago Lobbyists is an opengov project that visualizes all lobbyists interactions/activities with the City of Chicago in 2010. Each lobbyist has a profile (example: Ronald Johnson) listing all their clients, how much they were paid, what they charged as expenses, and what actions they sought in front of city agencies (City Council, Community Development, etc).

Every company or organization that hired lobbyists (we call them clients) has a profile showing the lobbyists they hired, the actions they hired them to make, and the amount they paid them. Interestingly, the Salvation Army is the number one spender on lobbyists for 2010 at $380,000. All of their money was spent on just 2 lobbyists, and they look to mostly be regarding zoning and land transfer.

Every city agency also has a page summarizing lobbyists' activities regarding them. Not surprisingly, City Council is the most lobbied agency with 152 lobbyists seeking a total of 587 lobbying actions on a wide range of subjects.

More info on how it works and how we built it.

One of the most exciting parts about this project has been our interaction with the city of Chicago (specifically the CDO Brett Goldstein). After making a rough version of Chicago Lobbyists in late July, we found that a lot of lobbying data was missing from the datasets the city had published. We met with Brett and his staff, explained what was missing, and by the end of August, they had updated their data with the pieces that were missing. We then took that new data and updated our site accordingly. With it, we are now able to tie clients to specific lobbying actions and show how much clients paid each lobbyist. More on this on our blog: An Open Data Story and Chicago Lobbyists V2 Is Here

We just submitted Chicago Lobbyists to the Apps for Metro Chicago Grand Challenge. The winners will be announced on Dec 16th.

This is probably the biggest, most impactful project I've worked on to date (the others I have posted on MeFi Projects as well) . It has a huge potential to inform and change people's perception of government and lobbyists, and best of all, the city is cooperating with us do it.
Role: developer
posted by kakarott999 (6 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

wow, beautiful work!
posted by mathowie at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2011

Nice, and fwded
posted by timsteil at 4:51 PM on December 6, 2011

Interesting note...looked under Richard Mell (ie Blago's FIL) The address listed is a house about three blocks from me in which Mell does not live. Ah...Chicago.
posted by timsteil at 5:01 PM on December 6, 2011

thanks for all the positive feedback mefites.

more good news: we just got featured on Chicagoist
posted by kakarott999 at 9:50 AM on December 7, 2011

Very interesting. I like the layout and design. It's great that you shared how you did made this also - I'm currently playing around with Aquafold.

I was wondering if it is possible to include more information about the `Actions Sought`? On this page it's hard to tell what exactly the lobbyists asked for. I'm not sure if that information is available though.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:29 PM on December 7, 2011

I'd really like to get more info on those actions too. Unfortunately, Chicago's ethics ordinance only requires that they fill out this form which leads to them only describing the action with 1-3 words.

To get that info they would have to change the form, which means updating or passing a new ordinance.

However, there is currently an RFQ out for creating an online lobbyist registration system. I'm not sure if the City plans on just copying the existing paper forms, but it's a good opportunity make the right changes.

We're thinking of responding to the RFQ, but as of now, we're just a group of volunteers working on something cool in our free time. Getting a city contract involves A LOT of legwork (seriously read the PDF Exhibit 6 - $2M in Commercial Liability Insurance, among other things). They clearly favor huge companies like IMB and Accenture.
posted by kakarott999 at 9:52 AM on December 8, 2011

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