Lobbyists spent more than $1.2 million in the first two months of 2011 trying to influence lawmakers and other state officials, with much of the money devoted to events, food and gifts, according to the latest ethics filings.
These records are now accessible in our new lobbyist directory, a news application detailing all lobbyists’ clients, contact information and spending since 2009. It also aggregates the data to display statistics for all lobbying activity by categories (food, gifts, etc.) and recipient type (state representatives, legislative employees, etc.), and offers rich interactive visualizations.
The records are made public by the Texas Ethics Commission, which registers lobbyists and collects their spending and client information in compliance with state law. (Read more about the practice and rules associated with lobbying in Texas on our topics page.)
The presence of lobbyists around state government is nothing new, of course, especially in a legislative session, and neither is their spending. Lobbyists spent nearly $10 million in 2009, for example, with about $3.5 million to food and entertainment for lawmakers, their staffs and other officials.
The new app can be used in several ways. The landing page features a list of the lobby’s top spenders, as well as an interactive column chart that lists totals by all lobbyists since 1992. This page also lists how many of the roughly 1,500 lobbyists spent more than $1 (about half), and breaks down the totals by average annual spending, total spending, average number of clients and the average salary received by lobbyists (these amounts are only reported in ranges). These totals are available for 2009, 2010 and the first two months of 2011.
In addition to the landing page, the app also features lists of lobbyists and clients. You can also search the app, which returns results that contain phrases in queries. “Smith” would return “John Smith” but also “Smith Construction,” for example.
We've also given lobbyists their own pages, listing their clients, compensation ranges and visualizing their spending patterns. Clients have them, too. Here's the listing for AT&T, which has more lobbyists than any other company or interest group (97) this year.
We’ll be mining this data for stories in the coming days. Until then, please let us know if you have any ideas or want to offer feedback, and be sure to follow @TribData on Twitter.
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