I built a searchable database of lobbyists’ registration and quarterly update forms. This database, part of ProPublica’s Represent project, contains years of forms, is designed so readers can understand what individual companies have lobbied on, for instance, seeing Facebook’s lobbying shift from focusing on privacy to defending itself in light of Russian election meddling, hate speech and fake news.
The database also groups lobbying registrations by issue, so users can see that, for instance, at the start of the Trump administration, the number of tax-related lobbying registrations spiked as H.R. 1 was under consideration in Congress – and as the surprise election of Trump created a free-for-all for corporations seeking favorable treatment in the bill.
I also wrote a “reporting recipe” explaining how to use the database.
From a tech perspective, the app updates itself, running on a cron to download and parse XML files and load them into database schema set up to model the complex reporting requirements of the Lobbying Disclosure Act.