IT’S NOT JUST to satisfy a peculiar curiosity that one studies the minutiae of Taiwan’s lobbying disclosure. Nor does one graph data from Canada’s Federal Lobbying Registry to pass the time. These things are done, rather, in an effort to better understand “the impacts of technology-driven transparency policies around the world.” It’s in the hope of learning something useful that the Sunlight Foundation, with funding from Google.org, Google’s charitable arm, is taking this initiative very seriously.
Lobbying disclosure is only one issue area in the research, but will include three case studies: Canada, Hungary, and Taiwan. So far only an analysis of Canada’s disclosure has been published, with Hungary and Taiwan forthcoming.
The Canadian case study is staggeringly detailed: an over 5,000-word analysis is accompanied by three graphs and over four hours of interviews with experts on the country’s disclosure framework. Whether this impressive assemblage of data will have any application in the U.S. is yet to be seen, but it would surely be a shame if it didn’t at least point us in the right direction. The section on enforcement, for example, argues that Canada’s Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying is a “credible threat.” If we learned from our neighbors, perhaps the same could be said for our Department of Justice.