Other Tools for Finding Lobbyists /
A Guide to Using the Senate Office of Public Records Lobbying Site (sopr.senate.gov)
Posted on 07-26-2005 10:18 AM EDT
Lobbying disclosure forms are available at the Web site of the Senate Office of Public Records (SOPR), sopr.senate.gov.
SOPR’s Web site acts as an electronic card catalog that allows users to retrieve individual forms based on queries. The site furnishes users with computerized images of disclosure forms in .pdf format. These files are essentially computerized photographs of the disclosure forms. They do not contain electronic data that can be downloaded, sorted or manipulated.
There are several pitfalls of using SOPR that can result in misinterpretation of data.
1. Understanding the Difference Between Registrants and Clients
Registrants are firms that lobby. Clients are entities on whose behalf firms lobby. When Registrants lobby on their own behalf (for example, corporations that have in-house lobbying departments), they are listed both as the registrant and the client on the same form.
To bring up a full dossier of lobbying activity funded by a company, search its name under “Client.” This way, you will find both the firm’s in-house disclosure forms (in which the firm will be listed as both Registrant and Client) and those filed by the outside firms it has hired.
Avoid double-counting expenditures by firms and their outside lobbying firms. When a firm lobbies on its own behalf, it must declare its total expenditures on its own disclosure form. This figure includes both its in-house costs and its expenses paid to outside lobbying firms. Therefore, to determine how much money a firm that conducts in-house lobbying spent in a six-month period, search the firm’s name under “Registrant.”
2. Searching for Forms
Users can query on the name of a registrant (the organization doing the lobbying), the client (the organization on whose behalf the lobbying was conducted), the lobbyist, or several other items disclosed on the forms (except for the specific bill or issue lobbied upon).
SOPR only searches for the beginnings of terms. For instance, a search on U.S. Chamber of Commerce would only bring up this organization’s name if one searched on “U.S.” This limitation can be particularly vexing for organizations that are listed under multiple spellings in SOPR.
For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is listed in SOPR as “U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” “US Chamber of Commerce,” “United States Chamber of Commerce,” “Chamber of Commerce of the United States,” “Chamber of Commerce of the US” and “Chamber of Commerce of the USA.”
The Chamber’s legal policy affiliate, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform,” is likewise listed multiple ways, including both “Inst for Legal Reform” and “Institute for Legal Reform.”
Expenditures listed include only the reporting period covered. Hence, year-end reports are not cumulative (i.e., for the whole year) but instead reflect only the six month period covered.
3. Reading Disclosure Forms (First Page of Forms)
Line 1 to 7: The top section in the first page enumerates the name of the registrant and the client.
Lines 8 to 11: The middle section of the first page enumerates the reporting period, including the year and whether it is a mid-year report (covering the first six months) or an end of the year report (covering the last six months).
Lines 12 to 14: The bottom section indicates expenditures. Lobbying firms that work on behalf of other clients report this figure in the left box (“Lobbying firms”) while companies lobbying on their own behalf report this figure on the right (“Organizations”).
Line 14 enumerates three accounting methods that may be used to calculate lobbying expenditures.
Method A calls for reporting amounts using LDA definitions only;
Method B calls for reporting amounts using Section 6033(b)(8) of the IRS tax code, which defines the terms charities (or 501(c)(3)) groups use to calculate their lobbying expenditures. These calculations include both direct lobbying, which is covered by the LDA and grassroots lobbying, which is not.
Method C calls for reporting amounts using Section 162(e) of the IRS tax code. Section 162(e) calls for declaration of all efforts to influence legislation, including direct lobbying and grassroots lobbying.