California interest groups have filed nearly 7,000 reports in the first half of 2011 disclosing what bills and issues they have lobbied in state government. We've taken those forms and created a one-of-a-kind database that allows you to search who is lobbying any bill before the Legislature.
Simply type a bill number into the system and get a list of all the interests that declared an intent to lobby that bill on their Form 635s [PDF].
There are a few important caveats to keep in mind.
In order to extract the individual bills from the filings, California Watch relied on human data entry workers -- a necessity, given the varied, unstructured nature of the filings. Anytime human beings perform large-scale data entry, some errors are inevitable. We took a statistically significant sample of our data entry results and found that between 2 and 7 percent of the records in the database likely had some kind of problem caused by human error: mostly typos and omissions.
We fixed the most obvious issues, but the point remains: Don't look at these results as gospel. Each result returned by our database also includes a link to the original reports, so if something looks out of place, by all means verify it.
Second, about 200 of the nearly 7,000 or so reports we collected have not yet been processed due to various complications. We'll add those as soon as we can.
And finally, we make no promises that the information contained in the reports was entered correctly by the interest groups themselves. State regulations clearly spell out filing requirements, but in our past reporting, we've seen organizations that have mistakenly filed Senate bills as Assembly bills, mistyped bill numbers and had other issues. Some groups also did not file bill numbers in some cases and instead filed descriptions of bills, meaning they would not appear in our database.
We're going to continue refining our data, and we plan to update it each quarter as new filings come out. It's not without its flaws, but we think this represents a leap forward from the current system. If you have any suggestions for how we can make it better, let us know.
In the meantime, feel free to explore below. Start by typing in a bill number here, selecting a bill from the dropdown menu and then hitting "Search." Results may take a few seconds to load: