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InSITE: Listing

Volume: 15 Number: 12

Title: Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker

Source/Sponsoring Agency: ProPublica; Sunlight Foundation


Date Checked: 2/3/2010      Status: Active

Date Annotated: 2/3/2010

Topics: Politics

Other keywords: Campaign Finance; Foreign lobbying; Congress

Contents: Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker (“Tracker”) is the joint project of two non-profit organizations, the Sunlight Foundation and ProPublica (both previously annotated in InSITE), to digitize and make available select information from filings made pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Congress passed FARA in 1938 as a reaction to Nazi agents in the United States who attempted to influence public opinion with propaganda. FARA requires agents working in the U.S. on behalf of foreign countries and organizations to file statements with the Department of Justice describing their activities. Agents-- usually lobbyists and law firms—must disclose, inter alia, their names, the names of the foreign entities they work for, the fees foreign entities paid them, political contributions made by the agent, and actions undertaken on behalf of the foreign entity, often including the names of legislators contacted and the topics of discussion (i.e., the contact issues). The Department of Justice makes this information available on its website, but researchers have to sort through individual filings in non-searchable PDF format to gather the information, while Tracker has aggregated the information and made it available in dropdown menus organized by country, legislator, clients (which includes countries but also foreign entities such as trade organizations and tourism boards), lobbying firms, and contact issues. Users can download the information as a spreadsheet (CSV format). This project is impressive because the data had to be gathered from filings and then hand-keyed into a database. Unfortunately data is only available from late 2007 and calendar year 2008. Tracker also posts on its home page several interesting news stories that use FARA data.

Author of Annotation: I. Haight

Last Modified: 6/20/2012