The project is an interactive map of the representation of interest groups (lobby groups) among deputies of the State Duma; whose interests, in addition to the interests of voters, these deputies are representing; and who is the beneficiary of the draft laws they introduce. This map also shows the lobbying opportunities of each deputy and the degree of their influence on the legislative process.
The project is designed to draw the attention of civil society, the media, and lawmakers to the problem of the lack of legislative regulation of lobbyism in Russia. The problem is that lobbying in Russia has not been settled legally. The decision-making process itself takes place “behind closed doors”, which leads to the violation of public interest.
The project helps to make the process of political and economic decision-making more transparent and understandable for the citizens of Russia. The project data has become a kind of database for journalists which they can use for their investigations of lobbying practices among Russian deputies. The project data is also useful for the academic research on lobbying.
The key outcomes of the project are as follows: (1) a specialized media resource on lobbyism in Russia is about to be launched; (2) a well-known Russian media (The Arguments of the Week) has started publishing regularly the rating of lobbying opportunities of the members of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
We used only open data for the project. The sources of data are as follows: official websites of the State Duma, deputies’ accounts on social networks, their personal websites, the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography (Rosreestr), websites of federal and regional government bodies, media, websites of commercial and non-commercial organizations.
We have compiled detailed biographies of deputies. We have investigated their relations with the commercial and non-profit sectors as well as with government bodies. We have collected and described the draft laws introduced by them, namely their essence, possible beneficiaries and terms of completion.
We have designed a matrix of interest groups as well a methodology for assigning deputies to a particular interest group.
We have examined a total of 48,000 sources. We have used the method of interviewing (we interviewed regional experts and industry representatives).
The technical part of our work on this project took 250 hours (please see below the technologies/ tools we used).
What was the hardest part of this project?
The most difficult part was to collect data, because it was impossible to collect all the data automatically. This is especially true for the draft laws introduced by the deputies. We have analyzed only those draft laws that deputies introduced as authors. That is, the draft laws registered with the State Duma are signed by them. Draft laws where a deputy joined the group of authors after the draft had been introduced were considered as less important for the project or not taken into account at all. The official website of the State Duma allows its visitor to parse data only by the initiators of drafts rather than by the authors. Therefore, we have collected the data manually over a two-year period. It was also difficult to sort out who was really interested in passing this or that draft law, since rulemaking in Russia is usually not a direct action, and legislative initiatives themselves, as a rule, are introduced as something made for the public good.
The implementation of such a project required the painstaking and systematic work of three people over the course of one year, and another team of 10 people working on fact checking, data verification and technical implementation of the project. The project analytics takes approximately two thousand pages of text.
We believe that our project should win because the above-mentioned work resulted in an easy-to-use visual tool that might help various types of audience, be it civil society, media or researchers, to find out more about lobbying in Russia.
What can others learn from this project?
Thanks to this project, one can analyze the activities of regional deputies, their lobbying practices and the transparency of political and economic decision-making at the regional level. Thanks to the project, voters can understand how much the deputy elected by them represents their interests or the interests of the community surrounding them. This will help make a more rational choice next time. Besides this, the project may push lawmakers to legislatively regulate the lobbying institution in Russia.