Vital Statistics on Interest Groups and Lobbying


Holly Brasher

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
    • Chapter 1: Overview of Lobbying Trends
    • What We Know About Why Organizations Become Politically Active
    • Trends in Lobbying
    • Economic Indicators and Lobbying
    • Earlier Lobbying Data 1946 to 1969 from the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946
    • Chapter 2: Types of Interest Groups in the Washington Lobbying Community
    • How Organizations Are Classified in Research
    • Sources of Information about Organizations
    • Lobbying Data and Organization Characteristics
    • Chapter 3: The Issues
    • The Issues over Time
    • Spending on Issues
    • Issues and the Activities of Congress
    • Issues and Media Attention
    • Chapter 4: The Geography of Lobbying
    • Lobbying in Washington from Organizations in the U.S. States
    • Lobbying in Washington by State and Local Governments and Associations
    • Lobbying by Foreign Commercial Interests
    • Contributions from Foreign Entities to the Lobbying Effort
    • Chapter 5: The Lobbyists
    • Understanding the Role of Lobbyists
    • The Revolving Door and Covered Officials
    • Executive Branch Agencies and Congress as the Targets of Lobbyists
    • Lobbyists and Issues
    • Lobbyists and Campaign Contributions
    • Chapter 6: Lobbying Firms
    • Comparing Activity by Lobbying Strategy: Using In-House, a Combination of In-House and Lobbying Firm, and Lobbying Firm Representation Exclusively
    • Lobbying Behavior by Self-Reported Business or Activity
    • Lobbying Behavior of Organizations by Number of Clients
    • Chapter 7: Lobbying and Congressional Bills
    • Bills and Lobbying on Issues over Time
    • Lobbying and Major Legislation
    • Chapter 8: The Agencies, the House, and the Senate
    • General Patterns in Contacting Agencies and Institutions over Time
    • Executive Branch Agencies, Regulations, and Lobbying
    • Lobbying before the Executive Branch Agencies from the U.S. States
    • Chapter 9: Organization Characteristics, the Agencies, the House, and the Senate
    • The Relationship between Lobbying the Agencies and Lobbying Congress and the White House
    • The Executive Branch Agencies and Organization Characteristics
    • The House, the Senate, and the White House and Organization Characteristics
    • Large Employers and Lobbying before Agencies
    • Summary Statistics by Organization Characteristics for the Executive Office of the President, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House Office
    • Chapter 10: Campaign Contributions, Organizations, Lobbyists, and Recipients
    • Characteristics of the Registrants, the Types of Contributors, and the Recipients
    • Registrant Contribution Patterns by the Length of Time the Organization Has Been Active
    • Characteristics of the Recipients and Campaign Contributions
  • Copyright

    Tables and Figures


    One of the most enjoyable aspects of working on this book was that it did not involve making a case for anything other than that the data have much to tell us. There is no ideological perspective here, no liberal, no conservative, no case for the evils of interest groups and lobbying, no defense of the virtues of any particular reform of government. It is not an argument where the data are compelled to fit a certain theory.

    It is just the data talking.

    A number of individuals and organizations helped it speak. I would like to thank the professionals and staff members at the Secretary of the Senate’s Office for the U.S. Senate for patiently answering technical questions about the computer-generated identification numbers, when late reports are posted, how information is entered, along with more substantive questions about the content of the laws themselves that govern the reporting regime. A similar thanks goes to staff at and at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that are behind, both of which are within the Office of Management and Budget. Their willingness to share their time reflected a full commitment to public access to information.

    Closer to home, there was a team of research assistants that also contributed in invaluable ways to the development of the datasets used in this book. These include Robert L. Williams, William B. Caswell, Victoria C. Roberts, Keenan Brownlow, Richa Tiwari, Song Gao, Matthew Price, David Williams, Morgan Munson, and Sherry Anton. These students contributed to the collection of registration dates, organization data, the compilation of hundreds of individual downloadable files, and the deduplication and cleaning of the data, all of which they did while attending to their other individual academic responsibilities. All approached their contributions to the project with an active intellectual curiosity and great attention to detail.

    Finally, I appreciate the time and energy that went into the production of this book at CQ Press. Doug Goldenberg-Hart at CQ Press gave a green light to the work after a thorough evaluation of the project using reviews from both librarians and scholars. Eric Garner answered multiple production and software questions, some of them more than once! Finally, in particular, I would like to thank Carole Maurer, the Development Editor at CQ Press whose excellent editing skills, grace, and professionalism were invaluable.

    Although many people contributed to the data collection, information gathering, and production of Vital Statistics on Interest Groups and Lobbying, I alone am responsible for its contents. I hope others will also have an interest in what the data have to say.


    Lobbying and interest groups in Washington, D.C., are frequent topics of discussion by those interested in the U.S. political process. Often, the lobbyists and the interests they represent are cast as the villains of the policy-making process. With the exception of an occasional discussion of the numbers of lobbyists relative to members of Congress, and totals of dollars spent to lobby, much of the discussion of political advocacy is anecdotal and draws selectively on isolated pieces of information. This book is intended to provide an alternative approach to the understanding of the lobbying approach through aggregated data, analysis, depictions of activity and behavior in charts and graphs, and summary statistics about lobbying. It is a broad, comprehensive, and informative view of lobbying, interest groups, and campaign contributions in American national politics. It covers the broad contours of lobbying in Washington. It displays the trends in lobbying over time but also demonstrates connections between elements of lobbying activity. For example, the following chapters show connections among significant national events, lobbyists and their former roles in government, lobbying and campaign contributions, and variations in levels of lobbying activity across issues, agencies, and institutions. It serves as a reference book for basic statistical information about the characteristics of lobbying and interest groups.

    The tables, charts, and other types of information in the following chapters could not have been produced before the passage of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA). Beginning in 1996, this legislation required all organizations lobbying before Congress or the executive branch to register with the Secretary of the Senate of the U.S. Congress. These reports include both an original registration report for each organization (Form LD-1), and also biannual, originally, and then, beginning in 2008, quarterly reports of specific lobbying activities (Form LD-2). The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HLOGA) changed reporting periods from biannual to quarterly, and it also introduced an important new provision that required organizations and individual lobbyists that were registered under the LDA to report campaign contributions. This added the contribution reports (LD-203) to the reporting requirements for organizations and individuals that lobby Congress or the executive branch including the White House and the executive branch agencies.

    The LDA reports form the foundation for each of the chapters in this book, along with the campaign contribution data in Chapter 5, Chapter 6, and Chapter 10. Prior to this legislation, the limited information on lobbying was primarily available from directories of lobbying organizations. Lists in those directories provided simple counts of lobbying organizations. The LDA reports have much more complete information including total spending on the lobbying effort for the period covered by the report, descriptions of the organization, descriptions of the issues for which the organization lobbies, and the name of the lobbying firm that lobbies on behalf of the organization.

    The original sources of information presented in the following chapters are primarily the LDA registration, activity, and campaign contribution reports and other governmental sources of data on federal regulations and economic activity. However, information from these original sources is combined with additional information from other sources including the Congressional Bills Project, the Policy Agendas Project, and the Index of Consumer Sentiment.1 Other data on corporations and organizations that lobby were also collected from proprietary databases.2 While some of these sources of information are publicly available, they present many challenges for anyone who seeks to compile and analyze the data in the aggregate. The original data contain duplications, amended reports, and variations in key identifiers for the records. Furthermore, in raw, disaggregated form from the original sources, it is not possible to present the data in a way that summarizes the general characteristics of the individual reports.

    Beyond simply presenting compilations of data and statistics, the chapters are designed to present the data in ways that highlight information of interest to journalists, scholars, students, and others interested in the public debate about money and influence in politics. The features of the chapters are based on relevant themes from discussions in the media, scholarly research on interest groups and campaign contributions, and national and international trends.

    As an academic resource for students, Vital Statistics on Interest Groups and Lobbying introduces and encourages students to view interest groups and lobbying in a systematic way that goes beyond the anecdotal or sensational popular accounts of the exercise of influence in Washington. It also provides a vital introduction to additional sources of information that can be used by students to produce their own informed research.

    The Lobbying Disclosure Act, Amendments, and Changes in Regulation

    The provisions of the LDA, when it was originally passed in 1995, required that lobbyists fitting certain threshold criteria based on income from clients for lobbying firms, spending by organizations lobbying on their own behalf, and time spent lobbying register with the Secretary of the Senate and submit reports of lobbying activity on a regular basis. The LDA was followed by important statutory and regulatory changes that modified, refined, and revised the criteria for who registered and reported lobbying activity and the timing and content of the reports. The initial characteristics of the LDA and the following statutory and regulatory changes have a significant impact on the characteristics of the data.

    The following sections describe the initial requirements as they were implemented in 1996 and then the additions and modifications that followed in subsequent years. This is followed by a description of the format of the forms and the content that is submitted by the filers.

    The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995

    The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) instituted a regulatory regime for lobbying with specific provisions that produce the data on lobbying. Reports contain information on registrants and clients. In those cases where the organization has an in-house lobbying apparatus and lobbies on its own behalf, the registrant and client are one in the same. More often however, organizations hire professional lobbying firms and the registrant is the lobbying firm, and the client is the represented organization. There are two types of reports: registration reports and activity reports.


    The LDA required that lobbying firms register to lobby by filing a registration report if receipts from a client exceed $6,000 in a biannual reporting period. Lobbying firms must register on behalf of each of the clients they represent where receipts meet this threshold. Organizations using in-house lobbying resources must register if lobbying expenditures total at least $24,500 during a semiannual period. All registrants must register by filing an LD-1 within 45 days of making the first contact or being retained to make the contact, whichever is first.

    For LD-2, the activity reports, registrants must report whether receipts were under $10,000 or over $10,000; and if over $10,000, they must provide a good faith estimate of receipts to the nearest $20,000. The same amounts applied to organizations using in-house lobbying.

    A contact is considered lobbying when certain types of officials are the recipients of the contact. These “covered” positions include upper level administrators in the executive branch, members of Congress, and congressional staff. Specifically, in the executive branch it includes the president, vice president, employees working in the Executive Office of the President, senior administration officials and political appointees, as well as admirals and generals. Covered legislative branch officials include all members of Congress and their staffs.

    Some types of organizations are exempt from registration and reporting requirements unless they hire a lobbying firm. Churches and their auxiliary associations, conventions or associations of churches and religious orders, are not required to register unless they hire a lobbying firm. In that case, the lobbying firm must register if registration is required based on the standard thresholds for receipts during a given period. The same is true for professional associations of elected officials acting in their official capacity. For example, the National Governors Association would not need to register unless a lobbying firm was employed on behalf of the association to lobby on other matters and the standard thresholds for registration and reporting were met by the lobbying firm.

    Individual lobbyists associated with each client must also be listed on the registration and activity forms. The lobbyists associated with a registrant must be listed if 20 percent of the individual’s time is devoted to lobbying. Individuals who lobby but do not meet this 20 percent criterion do not need to register as lobbyists; however, the expenses that they incur in any lobbying activities should be included in the totals that are used to determine whether the firm or organization reaches a threshold that requires that the organization register. For example, the expenses of a CEO lobbying on behalf of his or her corporation would not have to register as a lobbyist given that the lobbying activity would not constitute 20 percent of the executive’s time. However, the expenses incurred in the effort would be included in the total lobbying expenses.3


    The information in the reports required by the LDA includes extensive data on expenditures, general lobbying issues indicated with pre-established categories, and a listing of specific lobbying issues that were not previously available through any other source. Filers tally expenses in the case of in-house lobbying, or receipts in the case of the lobbying firms. Or, they may use totals that have been calculated for income tax purposes using the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). For those registrants using the alternate filing method using IRC guidelines, the estimates will include costs for grassroots and state-level lobbying but for those filers not using this alternate calculation, totals will not include expenditures for grassroots and state-level lobbying.

    The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007

    The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HLOGA) changed the frequency of lobbying activity reports from biannual to quarterly. It also introduced a requirement that organizations and individual lobbyists report campaign contributions using the LD-203 form.


    Following the HLOGA beginning in 2008, lobbying firms registered clients if they received more than $3,000 in a quarterly period. Organizations using in-house lobbying resources are required to register if expenses for the lobbying effort total more than $11,500 in a quarterly period. The threshold for registration for individual lobbyists was not changed by HLOGA and remained 20 percent, as did the 45-day deadline for registrations. Registration is required within 45 days of when the lobbying firm is first retained or when the first lobbying contact is made.

    Also beginning in 2008, the LD-2 forms, which report activity, must be filed within 20 days of the end of each quarter. Lobbying firms must report receipts of either less than $5,000 or more than $5,000; and if the amount is over $5,000, the registrant must make a good faith estimate of the receipts rounded to the nearest $10,000. As with the LDA, the same amounts apply to organizations using in-house lobbying.

    The HLOGA also instituted a requirement that registrants and lobbyists file information about their campaign contributions. Each registrant and lobbyist must file Form LD-203 biannually, reporting the names of all political committees they have established or control and the name of all federal candidates, officeholders, leadership political action committees (PACs), and political party committees to which they or their political committee contributed $200 or more. LD-203 also requires a report of any honoraria and costs paid for meetings, retreats, or conferences for a covered legislative or executive branch official, and contributions to presidential library foundations or inauguration committees.

    Finally, the HLOGA instituted mandatory electronic filing. Paper reports or reports completed by hand could no longer be filed. Handwritten submissions on the earlier forms had produced reports that were sometimes illegible.


    One of the most significant changes made by the HLOGA in the reporting regimen was the addition of the LD-203 forms. With the contribution information reported in the LD-203 forms, it is possible to link lobbying expenses to campaign contributions made by lobbying organizations and individual lobbyists. Access to the contribution data enables the observation of contribution patterns such as “bundling” where lobbyists or lobbying firms direct significant contributions to candidates or parties.

    The electronic filing was also an important development. In the earlier years of the LDA, paper reports were filed and then scanned and posted online. Some earlier reports were completed by hand and the images of the scanned version of the reports available online were often of poor quality. The requirement for electronic filing improved the accessibility and accuracy of the information.

    Presidential Memorandum—Lobbyists on Agency Boards and Commissions

    In June 2010 President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of the executive departments and agencies. In the memorandum, President Obama states that lobbyists have disproportionate influence relative to ordinary citizens as a result of their positions on advisory committees throughout the executive branch.


    To avoid the undue influence of lobbyists, the memorandum states the administration will implement an official policy that federally registered lobbyists are not to serve on advisory committees, commissions, and boards.


    In response to the president’s memorandum, many lobbyists terminated their registrations rather than lose their advisory positions. The registrations data reveal the significant increase in terminations that coincide with the memorandum.

    The Content of the Lobbying Disclosure Forms

    This section describes the sections on each of the forms. The line numbers on the forms changed after the HLOGA; however, the general content is the same. The contribution report, Form LD-203, which was required following the HLOGA, has remained the same since the requirement was implemented.

    Registrations, Form LD-1

    Effective Date of Registration. Organizations are required to file LD-1 within 45 days of the first lobbying contact or when the firm is retained to lobby, whichever comes first.

    House and Senate ID Numbers. These numbers are assigned by the Legislative Resource Center, which is a division of the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The numbers are assigned for each registrant-client relationship, using a unique number for each registrant.

    Registrant. This section includes the name and address of the registrant along with a general description of the registrant’s business or activities, for example “government relations firm.”

    Client. This section includes the name, state, and country of the client along with a general description of the client’s business or activities, for example “steel manufacturer.” In the case of in-house lobbying, this information will be the same as the registrant information.

    Lobbyists. The lobbyists are listed in this section along with any position they have held in the previous two years that are categorized as “covered” legislative branch or executive branch official positions. This section provides information on the revolving door for lobbyists who had previously been covered officials in government.

    Lobbying Issues. On this part of the form, filers choose a three-digit code from a list of general issue areas. For example, those organizations lobbying on agricultural issues choose AGR, for budget issues they choose BUD, and for the environment, ENV and so forth. These categories vary greatly in the number of organizations that report lobbying on the issue in their report. For example defense (DEF) and health issues (HCR) are included on the reports of a large number of registrants. There are 79 separate codes. The following list is used for both LD-1 and LD-2 forms.4

    ACC Accounting

    ADV Advertising

    AER Aerospace

    AGR Agriculture

    ALC Alcohol & Drug Abuse

    ANI Animals

    APP Apparel/Clothing Industry/Textiles

    ART Arts/Entertainment

    AUT Automotive Industry

    AVI Aviation/Aircraft/Airlines

    BAN Banking

    BNK Bankruptcy

    BEV Beverage Industry

    BUD Budget/Appropriations

    CHM Chemicals/Chemical Industry

    CIV Civil Rights/Civil Liberties

    CAW Clean Air & Water (Quality)

    CDT Commodities (Big Ticket)

    COM Communications/Broadcasting/Radio/TV

    CPI Computer Industry

    CSP Consumer Issues/Safety/Protection

    CON Constitution

    CPT Copyright/Patent/Trademark

    DEF Defense

    DOC District of Columbia

    DIS Disaster Planning/Emergencies

    ECN Economics/Economic Development

    EDU Education

    ENG Energy/Nuclear

    ENV Environmental/Superfund

    FAM Family Issues/Abortion/Adoption

    FIR Firearms/Guns/Ammunition

    FIN Financial Institutions/Investments/Securities

    FOO Food Industry (Safety, Labeling, etc.)

    FOR Foreign Relations

    FUE Fuel/Gas/Oil

    GAM Gaming/Gambling/Casino

    GOV Government Issues

    HCR Health Issues

    HOM Homeland Security

    HOU Housing

    IMM Immigration

    IND Indian/Native American Affairs

    INS Insurance

    INT Intelligence and Surveillance

    LBR Labor Issues/Antitrust/Workplace

    LAW Law Enforcement/Crime/Criminal Justice

    MAN Manufacturing

    MAR Marine/Maritime/Boating/Fisheries

    MIA Media (Information/Publishing)

    MED Medical/Disease Research/Clinical Labs

    MMM Medicare/Medicaid

    MON Minting/Money/Gold Standard

    NAT Natural Resources

    PHA Pharmacy

    POS Postal

    RRR Railroads

    RES Real Estate/Land Use/Conservation

    REL Religion

    RET Retirement

    ROD Roads/Highway

    SCI Science/Technology

    SMB Small Business

    SPO Sports/Athletics

    TAR Miscellaneous Tariff Bills

    TAX Taxation/Internal Revenue Code

    TEC Telecommunications

    TOB Tobacco

    TOR Torts

    TRD Trade (Domestic & Foreign)

    TRA Transportation

    TOU Travel/Tourism

    TRU Trucking/Shipping

    URB Urban Development/Municipalities

    UNM Unemployment

    UTI Utilities

    VET Veterans

    WAS Waste (Hazardous/Solid/Interstate/Nuclear)

    WEL Welfare

    Specific Lobbying Issues (Current and Anticipated). In this section, filers provide more specific information about the issues on which they plan to lobby. This field does not have preset categories and filers use their own words to report their issues. Reporting organizations vary significantly in the quantity and quality of information reported in this section of the form.

    The Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance posted on the public disclosure web page of the Secretary of the Senate addresses the requirements for this section of the form. The LDA Guidance states that filers must report more than simply a bill number when identifying the specific issues for which they are lobbying. As the Guidance states, “such disclosures are not adequate, for several reasons.” A bill number is required when the lobbying activities concern a bill, but a bill alone is not sufficiently informative for those viewing the report. Bills are often long and complex and the bill number alone will not reveal the particular component of the bill in which the registrant or the registrant’s client has an interest. In addition, even for bills that contain one subject, the Guidance states that disclosures should be “adequate to inform the public of the lobbying client’s specific issues from a review of the Form LD-2, without independent familiarity with bill numbers or the client’s interest in the specific subject matters within larger bills.”

    Affiliated Organizations. This section serves two purposes. First, if the client or registrant is a coalition, it is in this section that any affiliated organizations contributing more than $5,000 to the lobbying effort are listed. Even if the coalition is not a formal legal entity, affiliated organizations contributing significantly to the lobbying effort must be listed. Second, if a foreign entity is affiliated with the registrant or client, it is identified in this section, and then the specific information on the foreign entity must be reported in the following section.

    Foreign Entities. Any foreign entity that holds at least 20 percent of the lobbying entity listed in LD-1, contributes at least $5,000 per quarter to the lobbying effort, and has an interest in the lobbying outcome must be listed in this section.

    Lobbying Reports, Form LD-2

    Registrant Name. This section includes the name and address of the registrant.

    House and Senate ID Numbers. These numbers are the same as those listed on the registration reports, assigned by the Legislative Resource Center.

    Client Name. This section includes the name of the client.

    Type of Report. For forms filed before 2008, filers report whether the report is a mid-year or a year-end report. This section also provides filers with a box to check to indicate that the report is a termination report and whether no lobbying activity occurred during the reporting period.

    Income or Expenses. This section contains two different ways in which to report lobbying expenditures based on the type of filer filing the report. Lobbying firms use the first section, and organizations using in-house lobbying use the second. The lobbying firms report income in this section and whether their income from the client is below $5,000 or above $5,000; and if it is above $5,000, the lobbying firm reports estimated spending to the nearest $10,000. Prior to 2008, when reports were only required biannually, these estimated amounts were doubled. So, for example, the lobbying firm would estimate to the nearest $20,000.

    The second section is for organizations using in-house lobbying resources, and here the organization reports total spending on lobbying. This includes expenditures made to hire a lobbying firm. Any calculation of spending by individual organizations lobbying in-house must avoid counting these expenditures twice given that spending to hire a lobbying firm will be included in the organization’s expenses but will also be reported as lobbying income for the firm that is retained by the organization.

    Lobbying Activity. As with the registration form, organizations report the lobbying issues using the three-letter codes. Filers select one of the 79 issue codes from the list using a drop down pre-populated menu.

    Specific Lobbying Issues. Here the reporting entity lists specific lobbying issues in its own words.

    Houses of Congress and Federal Agencies Contacted. The registrant must report the federal entity contacted in the lobbying process. Filers may report more than one entity. This information is reported only on the LD-2 forms.

    Lobbyists. This section includes all of the lobbyists working on the client’s behalf.

    Interest of Each Foreign Entity in the Specific Issues Listed Above: Any foreign entities participating in the lobbying effort are listed in this section.

    Contribution Reports, Form LD-203

    Filer Type and Name. Form LD-203 must be completed by both lobbyists and registrants. In this section the filer indicates type of filer and the name of either the organization or the individual lobbyist. Any lobbyist or organization registered to lobby for the reporting period must file on behalf of the organization they represent.

    Identification Numbers. Filers use the Senate and House identification numbers used on LD-1 and LD-2.

    Reporting Period. Reports are filed biannually and in this section the filer indicates whether it is a mid-year or year-end report.

    Lobbyist Name and Employer Name or Organization Name. If the report is filed by a lobbyist, the report will list the lobbyist’s name and the employer’s name. If the report is filed by an organization, the organization name is listed. The address of the registrant is included in the downloadable databases but does not appear on the individual reports online.

    Political Action Committee Names. The filer reports any political action committee established or controlled during the reporting period.

    Contributions. In this section the filer reports each contribution that totals or exceeds $200. Filers must file the contribution information on Form LD-203 even if they have also filed the information with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). For each contribution the report includes contribution type, contributor name, amount of the contribution, date of the contribution, payee, and honoree. Contributions may be Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) contributions, honorary expenses, meeting expenses, presidential inaugural committee contributions, or presidential library contributions.

    FECA contributions are those contributions that are made to federal officeholders or candidates, leadership PACs, or political party committees and are subject to a $2,500 limit. Honoraria must also be reported. These are funds made in support of any event or action where a covered legislative or executive branch official is honored or recognized. The third type of contribution is fees for meetings, retreats, or conferences attended by legislative or executive branch officials. Finally, contributions to any presidential library foundation or presidential inaugural committee must be reported.

    The payee is the organization in receipt of the contribution, and the honoree is the federal officeholder or candidate in the case of campaign contributions, or the covered legislative or executive branch official. The contributor listed is the political committee through which the registrant has made the contribution.


    The LDA data present several methodological challenges because of the way in which they are filed and posted in electronic form. The following sections identify issues presented by the data and describe the methodological approach taken in this book to ensure that the data presented in the tables and figures in Chapters 1 through 10 are as error free as possible.

    The technology used to file the LDA reports has changed three times in the time that the law was first implemented.5 Since the passage of the HLOGA, forms must be submitted electronically. With electronic filing, a number of the fields are completed through drop-down lists, option boxes, date fields with calendars, and forms that include required fields, templates, and populated forms. Lobbying issue codes are entered from a drop-down list, and agency names are submitted through a prepopulated add and remove list. For the contribution reports, which are the LD-203 forms, filers can electronically link to identification numbers for registrants and individual lobbyists; and once a filing is completed by a registrant, later forms are prepopulated with Senate, House, and lobbyists’ identification numbers.

    Many of these developments in the filing process contribute to the reliability of the data. The remaining challenges and ways in which the errors or limitations in the data were addressed are described in the following subsections.

    Inconsistencies in Registrant and Client Names

    The client and registrant names on the forms are entered by the filers. Even with the mandatory electronic filing implemented in 2008, the process allowed for errors and variation in the names. Rather than using client names, data were aggregated using the unique registrant-client combinations. Registrant data were aggregated using unique registrant identification numbers. Lobbyists have an identification number but these are not released as part of the databases. However, lobbyists’ names are entered by the registrants and verified by the Legislative Resource Center and are associated with a unique identification number. While the names can be modified, because they are associated with an identification number, which remains the same even when lobbyists move to another employer, there are fewer problems with variations in lobbyists’ names and with aggregating data by name for lobbyists.

    Amended Reports and Duplicate Reports

    The electronic LDA data contains instances of records that are exact duplicates. Duplicates were removed where records were complete duplicates for both the content and the system-generated identification numbers for the reports. The data also include amended reports that have been filed where information has changed or was incorrectly reported for addresses, lobbyists, specific lobbying issues, or affiliated organizations. Names, street addresses, affiliated organizations’ URLs, and other aspects of the reports are not used to generate the statistics presented in Chapters 1 through 10. The amount of spending is also amended in some instances and is the figure that is used most frequently in the calculations for tables and figures. The amount reported on original reports and amended reports differed in only 3.53 percent of the cases. Amended reports were removed from the data to avoid additional duplication.

    Differences between the Original Forms and the Downloadable Data Files

    The downloadable data files do not include the effective date of registration. The downloadable data include instead the time-stamped registration date. This can deviate by a significant number of months from the date on the form listed for Effective Date of Registration. The registration data in the following chapters are the dates directly from the forms. The dates were retrieved by five undergraduate and one graduate research assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

    The goal of this text is to make the sometimes complicated lobbying and contribution data more accessible and transparent. Ideally, it should be a convenient source of information for those who use it, but also an enlightening look at advocacy, lobbying, lobbyists, and the exercise of influence in Washington, D.C.


    1. The data on congressional bills used in Vital Statistics on Interest Groups and Lobbying were originally collected by E. Scott Adler and John Wilkerson, for the Congressional Bills Project: (1999–2012), with the support of National Science Foundation (NSF) grant numbers NSF 00880066 and 00880061. Data on policy agendas were originally collected by Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones, with the support of NSF grant numbers SBR 9320922 and 0111611, and were distributed through the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Neither NSF nor the original collectors of the data bear any responsibility for the analysis reported here. Data on Consumer Sentiment (Consumer Confidence) are from the Index of Consumer Sentiment (Consumer Confidence) from the International Consortium of Political Research at the University of Michigan,

    2. LexisNexis Business, Hoovers Inc., and EBSCO Business Source Premier (LexisNexis,; Hoovers Company Information,; and EBSCO at

    3. The Lobbying Disclosure Technical Amendments of 1998 were the next development in lobbying disclosure chronologically. This law was passed primarily to respond to some lack of clarity in some specific aspects of implementation of the LDA. The most important substantive change in the Technical Amendments were the broadening of the definition of public official to include “a group of governments acting together as an international organization” in order to cover organizations such as the World Bank and ensure that they would be treated in the same way as the member governments. Specifically, acting in their official capacity, they would be exempt from potential registration and reporting requirements.

    4. A complete set of line by line instructions for the LD-1 and LD-2 forms can be found at, Legislation and Records, Lobbying Disclosure, Public Disclosure, LD-1/LD-2 or LD-203, LD-1, “Lobbying Disclosure Electronic Filing Lobby Registration and Reporting System,” February 2013,

    5. Dana McCallum, Superintendent, Office of Public Records at Secretary of the Senate, United States Senate, in a discussion with the author, October 16, 2013.

  • Organization Data

    This appendix includes information on the processes that were used to code organization data from the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) data, the availability and characteristics of the data collected from the company profile databases, and the information collected through the Guidestar database for nonprofit organizations.1 It also includes information about the 2007–2009 and 2013 samples used in Chapter 2 and Chapter 9.

    The Client Type Coding

    The coding of organizations using the “general description of the client’s business or activities” required on line 9 of the LD-2 lobbying registration reports was completed by two undergraduate research assistants using all registrations in the 2007, 2008, and first quarter 2009 data. After the initial coding process, results were reviewed by the author and coding was revised and completed by the coders.

    The results for the Client Type coding was compared with the organization data collected from the company profile databases with other fields in the LDA data, and in many cases with the organization’s web pages. Specifically, the reliability of the coding for the Unions category was confirmed by comparing organizations in this category with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for the organization collected from the company profile data. In the NAICS codes, 813930 is a broad category for labor unions, which includes unions, federations of unions, trade unions, and industrial unions. For organizations categorized as Foreign Entities, the client principle country of business field was used to confirm that the organization represented a foreign interest.

    All of the registrations for the period used in Chapter 2 were assigned a Client Type code, producing a total of 14,889 records. Coders were given the following descriptions of the organization categories:

    • Corporations —businesses organized for profit.
    • Trade Associations —organizations that represent a sector of industry, including organizations such as the Petroleum Institute (which represents the oil and gas industry), the American Beverage Association (which represents beverage manufacturers), and the National Home Furnishings Association (which represents furniture retailers).
    • Professional Associations —organizations that represent specific professions, including the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Songwriters Guild of America.
    • Nonprofit Institutions —organizations such as nonprofit hospitals, universities, and other institutions that are not organized for profit.
    • Nonprofit Membership Groups —organizations that have individuals as members such as the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International and organizations composed of other organizations that have members such as the Consumer Energy Alliance.
    • State and Local Governments and Associations Representing State and Local Governments —a state or municipality, or an association of state or municipalities or their representatives; examples include the City of Beaverton, Oregon, or the Denver Council of Regional Governments.
    • Tribal Governments and Associations Representing Tribal Governments —organizations that can be identified by a tribal government name such as the Makah Indian Tribe or the Nez Perce Tribe, or an association of tribes.
    • Unions —organizations formed to support the interests of union members such as the International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers.
    • Lobbying Firms —organizations that usually are the registrant rather than the client, but sometimes lobby on their own behalf.
    • Individuals or Uncodable —individuals who are lobbying for their own purposes; or in some cases, not enough available information about the organization type to code the organization.
    • Foreign Entities —includes both foreign governments and associations, and foreign private interests.
    Company Profile Data

    Company profile data was collected for 9,100 organizations from the 2007–2009 data from Chapter 2 and for 1,833 organizations from 2013 in Chapter 9. Information was collected on whether the organization was a publicly traded company or a private entity, annual net sales or income, NAICS code, and number of employees. The information was not available for all organizations researched and also varied somewhat in format. This section describes the availability of information.

    Net sales or income figures are reported in some of the profiles by a range of values rather than a single figure (e.g., $20,000,000–$49,999,999). Values are also sometimes reported in foreign currency by organizations not headquartered in the United States. Net sales or income reported by a range or in foreign currency was not included in the analysis to avoid introducing measurement error. Useable net sales or income figures were available for about 45 percent of organizations for which the data were collected.

    For NAICS codes, the information was available for about 64 percent of the organizations. Number of employees was also reported by a range of values for some of the company profiles. In those cases, as with the net sales figures, the data were not included. Information on number of employees was available for about 59 percent of the organizations researched. The organizations that can be located through the company databases are likely biased in that they are larger, older, have greater resources and are more visible than organizations for which no company profile record was available. Results in the tables and figures should be interpreted accordingly.

    National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities

    National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) codes were collected for approximately 14 percent of the organizations. At the three-digit level, there are 620 separate codes and 170 at the two-digit level. This taxonomy categorizes nonprofit organizations into many discrete categories, so it facilitates exploration of the political activities and interests using a more precise identification of the substantive focus of the organization.


    1. LexisNexis Business, Hoovers Inc., and EBSCO Business Source Premier (LexisNexis,; Hoovers Company Information,; and EBSCO at; Guidestar;

    The Lobbying Disclosure Issue Categories and Corresponding Policy Agendas Codes

    The majority of the 79 issue codes and Lobby Disclosure Act (LDA) data can be coded to substantively correspond to the 252 major and minor topics codes of the Policy Agendas Project (PAP). All of the 21 major topic codes correspond to one of the LDA categories. In many cases there is only a slight discrepancy in the label, which results primarily from the lengthier wording of the PAP codes.

    The few LDA codes that do not fit well with any of the PAP codes primarily have to do with specific industries including the advertising, beverage, apparel, automotive, chemical, big ticket commodities, and broadcasting industries. Those are grouped in the PAP Banking, Finance, and Domestic Commerce major topic category. This is the only case in which multiple LDA categories are combined in one PAP category. In most of the remaining cases, either the relationship is one-to-one or the LDA code corresponds to more than one PAP category. Finally, there are some codes in the PAP scheme such as Other, Miscellaneous, and Human Interest, which do not have an LDA category that corresponds. The following table shows the relationship between the two sets of codes.

    About the Author

    Holly Brasherreceived her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000, and her research focuses on interest groups and lobbying and the U.S. Congress. She has published in the American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Communication, and American Politics Research. Dr. Brasher has written articles on political parties, public opinion and party leadership in Congress, and campaigns and issues. She is most recently the author of “Understanding the Influence of Lobbying in the U.S. Congress: Preferences, Networks, Money, and Bills,” with Jason Britt in New Directions in Interest Group Politics, edited by Matt Grossmann (Routledge, 2013). She is also the author with David Lowery of Organized Interests and American Democracy (reprinted by Waveland Press, 2011). She was the Principal Investigator of “Using Computer and Information Sciences to Understand Organizational Engagement,” NSF 1127911 from August 2011 to January 2013, an interdisciplinary project that was a collaboration of political scientists and computer science faculty to quantitatively analyze lobbying in Washington, D.C. She is also the author of a blog on lobbying at Dr. Brasher has served as visiting faculty member at Duke University and George Washington University and tenured faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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