Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker, a joint project of ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation, digitizes information that representatives of foreign governments, political parties and government-controlled entities must disclose to the U.S. Justice Department when they seek to influence U.S. policy.
International lobbying is the hidden story to come out of the Arab Spring, which hits a major landmark today, the first anniversary of ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation. Lobbying represents a vital puzzle piece in an international structure of power that propped up dictators and oppressed millions of people. The Sunlight Foundation has been tracking these developments using the Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker, a searchable database of international lobbying records gleaned from the Department of Justice that we've just updated.
The project started in partnership with ProPublica, aiming to make this treasure trove of information accessible to the public and journalists.
The above map provides a summary of recent events in each country and an up-to date summary of lobbying by county. It's a quick way to see the lobbying landscape of Middle Eastern and North African lobbying interests over the last few years. For a text version of the map and links to the 119 sources that contributed to the map, click here.
Lobbying on behalf of foreign interests is regulated under the Foreign Agent Registrant Act (FARA); the reports, maintained by the Justice Department, reveal far more than the generic lobbying registrations filed on Capitol Hill. But the FARA database, while comprehensive, is difficult to use. That's why you might want to try our tracker at foreignlobbying.org.
You can search in ways not possible in FARA. Not only can you search by country, client and lobbying firm-you can search by issue area or look up a Congress member to see which foreign lobbyists he or she is meeting with.
Because making the data searchable takes time, the current data includes all the supplemental forms up to March 2011. Information is reported on a rolling basis so the most recent information for each client will very. For more recent filings, check Sunlight Foundation's FARA Tracker or the FARA database.
Filings under the Foreign Agent Registration Act provide far more detail on how lobbyists interact with government officials than those required by the Lobbying Disclosure Act; they contain information on efforts by foreign governments and organizations to influence U.S. policy on trade, taxation, foreign aid, appropriations, human rights and national security.
Since May 2007 the Justice Department has maintained a Web site that posts image files [pdf] of FARA disclosures online, but none of that information is available in a digitized format. Thus, it is impossible, for example, to see how many times the office of an individual member of Congress has been contacted. With the Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker, you can now find out with ease by selecting any member’s name from the pull-down list.
For more detailed information on FARA filings view our methodology.