Tagged: lobbying

A project for Transparency International Slovenija – visualization of lobbying contacts between state officials and lobbyists

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On the basis of previous post, Transparency International Slovenia asked me to collaborate on some projects. This is one of them, and it was launched today on a separate site: kdovpliva.si (English: whoinfluences.si).

It’s an attempt to visualize several networks of lobbyists, their companies, politicians and state institutions. Perhaps the most interesting part is the network of lobbying contacts, which was constructed with data containing around 700 reported contacts between 2011 and late 2014.

As you may imagine, not every lobbying contact is reported. For those who are, records are kept at the Komisija za preprečevanje korupcije (Commission for prevention of corruption, a state institution). Transparency International Slovenia obtained those records as PDF files, since the institution refused to provide them in a machine-readable format. They hired a few volunteers to copy and paste the information in spreadsheets, then handed them to me to visualize them.

You can see the results below. Click here or the image to open the site in a new window. It’s in Slovenian. For methodology, continue reading below the image.

App screenshot - lobbying contacts
App screenshot – lobbying contacts

 

Network construction

The meaning of every network is determined by the nature of its nodes and connections. Here, we have four node types:

  • lobbyists
  • those who were lobbied – state officials
  • organizations on which behalf lobbying was performed
  • state institutions at which the abovementioned officials work

Lobbying contact is initiated by a company or an organization, which employs a lobbyist to to the work. These people then contact state officials of a sufficient influence, who work at appropriate state institution.

So an organization is connected to the lobbyist with a weight of 2, the lobbyist to a state official with a weight of 1, and state official to her institution with a weight of 2. The weights signify the approximate loyalty between these entities. We presupposed that lobbyists are more loyal to their clients than they are to the state officials, with which they must be in a promiscuous relationship. Furthermore, the state officials are also supposed to be more loyal to their employers than to the lobbyists, although this is a daring supposition. But let’s say they are, or at least that they should be.

After some processing, the network emerged. Immediately apparent are the interest groups, centered around seats of power. Here’s an image of the pharmaceutical lobby. It’s centered on the Public Agency for Pharmaceuticals and Medicine. Main actors of influence are companies such as Merck, Novartis, Eli Lilly, Aventis, etc.

Pharmaceutical lobby
Pharmaceutical lobby

A click on the agency node brings up a panel with some details, such as a list of companies (font size indicates the frequency of contact), lobbying purposes and a timeline of lobbying contacts. Here we can see that Novartis and Krka were most active companies, and that they lobbied for purposes of pricing and to limit potential competition by producers of generic drugs.

You can explore the network by yourself to see the other interest groups.

Who lobbied the drug agency?
Who lobbied the drug agency?

 

Some advice from Information Commissioner

Unfortunately, we had to omit lobbyists’ names for reasons of supposed privacy. The Information Commissioner strongly advised us not to display them on the basis of some EU ruling. I’m not an expert in EU law, and perhaps there are good reasons for this. On the other hand, there may not be. I fail to see why this information would not be in public interest, since these decisions have an impact on a significant number of taxpayers, if not all of them.

Anyway, we have the names. After all, we had to use them to connect the network. They are present in raw data, just not displayed.

We’re are probably going to continue developing this project, as new information comes to light and new rulings regarding privacy are issued.

Stay tuned!