About this project

What is this?

ChicagoLobbyists.org is an open data, open government, and open source project intended to improve the transparency of interactions between the City of Chicago and lobbyists and their clients. All data comes from the City of Chicago Data Portal.


Since launching in early August 2011, we've made some headlines in the news, notably for our efforts to engage the City of Chicago on releasing more detailed lobbyist data.

Who built it?

This is a project by Open City, a group of developers and designers based in Chicago that build civic-minded apps using open data. The co-founders are Paul Baker, Derek Eder, Chad Pry, and Nick Rougeux.

It started on July 16th, 2011 at the Google Hackathon with some amazing help from Ryan Briones, Chirag Patel, Ruthie BenDor. Paul noticed the lobbyist data, conceived the project, and got the team together. Chad and Ryan did the bulk of the backend development with help from Derek and Chirag. Derek and Ruthie did the frontend development. Nick and Paul worked on the user interface prototypes.

Who is it for?

This site is for anyone who is interested in how lobbyists interact with Chicago's government. It could be used in the following ways:

Where did you get your data from?

All of our data came from the City of Chicago's Data Portal. Specifically, we took the following datasets from 2010:

Lobbyist Data - 2010 Lobbyist Registry

When the full dataset for 2011 is released in January 2012, we will update this site to include that data as well.

How does the data get onto the city's data portal?

According to Article 3 of the Governmental Ethics Ordinance, all lobbyists are required to register with the Ethics Board each January 20 (or within 5 business days of first engaging in lobbying activities), and file reports about their lobbying activities with the Board each January 20 and July 20.

Lobbyist Registration Form A - Statement of Registration

The forms can be downloaded from the city's website, or here:

After the forms are filled out and collected for each lobbyist, they are entered by hand into an internal system by Board of Ethics staff. That data is then uploaded to the data portal as it is updated (twice a year). For more information, see the City of Chicago's lobbyist filing requirements.

What did you use to build it?

This site is built with Ruby, PostgreSQL and uses the Sinatra web platform. It is hosted for free, courtesy of Heroku.

To get the data from CSV (comma separated values) on the Chicago Data Portal, we first cleaned it using Google Refine (an amazing tool for normalizing data), and Aqua Data Studio for generating the PostgreSQL import scripts.

All of the code is open source and available on github.

Contact us

If you have any comments, questions or feature suggestions, you can email us at chi.lobbyists@gmail.com or tweet us at @chilobbyists.

Who are we?

We are Open City, a group of developers and designers based in Chicago that build civic-minded apps using open data.

Paul Baker
President and co-founder of Webitects
Derek Eder
Developer at Webitects and organizer for OpenGov Chicago
Chad W Pry
Engineer at Groupon, Code Academy mentor, and all around charming fellow
Nick Rougeux
Designer and CSS wiz at Webitects