First Street staff joined up with special library association members and others interested at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for a day of networking and learning. The MD chapter of SLA organized and hosted xTreme Reference (http://units.sla.org/chapter/cmd/xreference.htm) with an excellent line up of speakers. The conference covered topics such as mobile reference, navigating government data, visualization tools and the delivery of next generation research services. The meeting allowed special librarians to interact with each other, with experts in the field and with vendors. We were there to introduce First Street and offer a sneak peek of the exciting new platform.
Mary Ellen Bates (http://www.batesinfo.com/) opened the program as the keynote speaker. She talked about the changing role of the librarian, from gatekeeper to value adder between the information and the user.
The morning’s breakout sessions covered e-books and various content segments (government, business research and science & technology resources). The afternoon was filled with sessions on library services, mobile reference, and next generation tools.
First Street Team at xTreme Reference October 2010
The conference was a great way to interact with librarians and researchers interested in making their directory searches easier and quicker. First Street, with its dynamic database and deep archive of Congressional and Federal agency staff, linked with lobbyists and PAC’s provides a comprehensive picture of the people, organizations and issues shaping policy. First Street is not just another online directory, it’s a research tool to save you time and learn about who is influencing who in Washington.
First Street™ staff attended the first debate in the Miller-McCune Live series at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on September 16, 2010. The debate, titled “Why Do Lobbyists Have the Veto?”, was hosted by Miller-McCune editor-in-chief John Mecklin. Joining the debate were Frank Baumgartner, co-author of Lobbying and Policy Change and political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen; and Rolf Lundberg Jr., senior vice president for congressional and public affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“The real outcome of most lobbying is … nothing,” Mecklin stated as he opened the debate. This line was taken from Melinda Burns’s article “K Street and the Status Quo” in the September/October issue of Miller-McCune, which was based on a review of the book by Baumgartner, et al. Baumgartner explained that he and his co-authors had found, contrary to popular belief, no correlation between the level of resources available to lobbyists and the desired outcome, whether that is maintaining the status quo or effecting policy change. Holman disagreed, stating that “money is critical,” and since the tools for lobbyists to affect outcome are “exceedingly expensive”, the side with greater material resources wins. Baumgartner countered that that isn’t always the case: in their study, a side could bring to bear more resources and get nowhere with their policy change due to a “scarcity of attention.” There are simply too many societal problems to tackle; thus, the reason why the status quo is so “sticky” and not easily altered.
Although there was no consensus whether financial resources affected outcome of lobbying, there was general agreement that lobbyists operate in a multifaceted “ecosystem”. “Each coalition is as unique as each issue,” Lundberg noted, as “the impact of policy change is broadly distributed.” This results in a high degree of complexity with diverse impacts on diverse constituencies. Baumgartner was surprised in the course of his research to see such heterogeneous alliances fighting on each side, coalitions not singularly driven by any one player. Lundberg mentioned that the Chamber of Commerce alone is actively following and working on an average of 500 issues each week.
It is in this ecosystem that First Street™ will add value when it launches in early 2011. Our First Street Coalition Builder™ will help lobbyists quickly find those players that can help them in affecting policy.
First Street™ – where people and policy intersect
Recently, when previewing First Street we were asked how much of the Lobbying Disclosure data is included in the product. In particular, is LD-203 data available? It is. And it’s especially important for making connections between people and organizations in our database that we wouldn’t be able to make otherwise.
LD-203 forms are filed twice a year by registered lobbying organizations and individual lobbyists. They detail their political contributions (over $200) and also list any Political Action Committees (PACs) they “established or control”. Any events sponsored by the filer to honor a candidate would also be reported on this form. The requirements are detailed here in Section 203
Once this data is incorporated into the First Street database, the user will be able to trace connections and have a more complete view of the relationships involved. Beyond following the money, you also can see connections based on issues and people. For example:
- On what issues does a lobbyist usually work? And how closely aligned are they with the issues important to members to whom they contribute?
- Is a corporate PAC mostly involved in campaigns in its home state and district? Did it support winners or losers in the last election?
- When a lobbying firm’s PAC is contributing to a particular member, did any of its lobbyists used to work for that member?
- Are a firm’s PAC and its client’s PAC contributing to an overlapping group of candidates?
- On what Congressional Committees do the recipients of contributions sit?
By incorporating the LD-203s into First Street, you can explore it seamlessly with other lobbying disclosure data, lobbyists work histories, detailed information on Congress Members, and contribution information about PACs not related to lobbying groups.
This is the CQ Press First Street Blog. We’ll be sharing product updates, sneak peaks of the features, and examples of our content. Hope you enjoy!