How to use LobbyFacts

LobbyFacts is a vital resource for anyone – journalists, activists, researchers – who want to understand lobbying in Brussels and how it has changed over recent years.

LobbyFacts is a one-stop-shop of data on EU lobbying in Brussels. Using data drawn, in real time, from the official EU Transparency Register and the Commission’s published lists of its high-level lobby meetings, LobbyFacts brings together data on lobby spend and turnover; numbers of lobbyists and European Parliament pass-holders; high-level Commission meetings held; country of origin; issues lobbied on; and other info.

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions below to find out how to get the most out of LobbyFacts data.

  • What searches can I do?

    There are a number of searches that are possible on LobbyFacts, and the results are downloadable.

    1. To look up the EU lobby records of a specific organisation, go to Search, and under 'Lobby organisation by name' start typing the name of the organisation until it comes up. Clicking on its name will take you to the organisation's datacard.

    2. To find out which lobby firms or law firms have been hired by a particular registrant, go to Search, and type the name of the registrant under 'Lobby clients by name'. The results will show all past and present records when a lobby consultancy firm or law firm has declared the registrant as a lobby client.

    3. To search for an individual’s name amongst the past and present records from the European Parliament for accredited passholders, go to Search, and type the name of the individual under "Accredited persons by name".

    4. To search for a particular lobby topic, go to Search and type the topic under 'Text search'. This search is imperfect because of the lack of standardisation of terms in the Register's data and trying several variations may help. For speed reasons, this search only looks at data in the following fields: goals/ remit; main EU files targeted; and meetings.  

    5. Finally, under Search and 'Get started' you can generate a list of lobby organisations from a particular country, by organisation type, and / or for a specific date.

  • What are the best tips to perform good searches on LobbyFacts?

    For the most effective searches:

    • Make sure your search term is correctly spelled

    • Watch out for unexpected issues in organisation names eg. it is ExxonMobil and not Exxon Mobil; also, it is JPMorgan and not JP Morgan

    • Try searching for the full name as well as the acronym of an organisation if it does not show up immediately

    • If you want to find the biggest or most active lobbies, use the filters (registrants with/without a Brussels office; with/without European Parliament access passes; or those who have/have not held high-level meetings with the European Commission) on the Search and 'Get started' page. See "Why would I want to filter out certain entries?" below for more information.

    • To search for a particular lobby topic, try all relevant terms and acronyms. For example some registrants may refer to "Green Deal", "European Green Deal", "EGD" or other variations. Others may just make vague references to ‘climate’.

    • Try using " if you are searching for a phrase rather than single word ie. "digital market"

    Please note that LobbyFacts is only as good as the data on the official register and there is little consistency in how registrants provide information on, for example, the issues they lobby on.

  • How can I find the biggest lobby-spending companies?

    Go to Search and then under Get Started, choose Category, select ‘Companies & groups’, choose a country or leave it blank, select today’s date, and then click on ‘Search’. You can then sort the lobby data results according to ‘costs’ and / or download the data as required.

    LobbyFacts allows you to filter out certain entries (registrants with/without a Brussels office; with/without European Parliament access passes; or those who have/have not held high-level meetings with the European Commission). These are three indicators of being significant EU lobbyists and choosing ‘Yes’ for one or more of these boxes when you go to Search and 'Get started' can help you to come up with a list of the most significant EU lobbyists. This is especially helpful as the official Register does contain wrong entries. For example: some organisations register their total budget and total staff when they should instead register their lobby spend and number of lobbyists. This means that some entries are inflated. Alternatively, some major organisations under-declare their lobby spend or their lobbyist numbers, in order to appear that they carry out less lobbying than they really do. The filters, while not perfect, are short-cuts to generate more accurate rankings. But care must be taken. There are some major lobbyists (especially those in Paris or London with easy access to Brussels) which do not have an office in Brussels or which may prioritise meetings with the Parliament and not the Commission, or vice versa. Also Covid 19 significantly reduced the numbers of European Parliament access passes that lobbyists hold. If you prefer to not use these filters, make sure the ‘Either’ options are selected.

  • Why do some organisations not provide an annual spend on lobbying?

    Since September 2021, all registered organisations have had to update their registration under a new format, in line with the agreement reached between the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Council of the EU. Now, organisations that declare themselves to represent their own interests, or who lobby on behalf of others will continue to declare an annual lobby spend. However, organisations which declare themselves to be ‘non-commercial’ no longer need to declare an annual lobby spend, but must instead declare their whole annual budget and their major donors. LobbyFacts very much regrets these differentiated financial reporting requirements and hopes that requirements to declare both lobby spending and annual budgets will be standardised across all categories of organisation very soon. 'Non-commercial' organisations are now flagged on LobbyFacts as no longer required to provide a lobby budget. In the ranking table they are listed as N/A for a lobby budget. On their individual datacard we only show their most recently declared lobby budget (likely dating from September 2021). 

    Additionally new registrants who have not yet incurred a full year of lobby spending are not required to make a financial declaration until their second year in the register. They are listed in the rankings as 0 for a lobby budget.

  • How can I find out about a company’s lobby entries in previous years?

    Go to Search and under 'Lobby organisation by name' start typing the company’s name and click through when the correct name appears. On its specific data card, each triangle on the timeline represents every time the company has revised its entry, with the red triangle on the right, the most recent. By clicking on a triangle, you can see all the data that was registered at that time. You can use this facility to compare how that registrant has changed its lobby spending, numbers of Parliament access passes, lobby issues, or other data over time. LobbyFacts includes all data from the EU lobby register since 17 February 2012, but many organisations only registered after this date. Some organisations update their registrations several times in one year. This can be because significant changes have occurred (as good practice, ALTER-EU recommends that updates are made at least twice a year), or to rectify mistakes. Mistakes are common in the register, and for some entries, registered lobby spend fluctuates massively between updates when mistakes get spotted and amended.

  • Why would I want to filter out certain entries?

    LobbyFacts allows you to filter out certain entries (registrants with/without a Brussels office; with/without European Parliament access passes; or those who have/have not held high-level meetings with the European Commission). These are three indicators of being significant EU lobbyists and choosing ‘Yes’ for one or more of these boxes when you go to Search and 'Get started' can help you to come up with a list of the most significant EU lobbyists. This is especially helpful as the official Register does contain wrong entries. For example: some organisations register their total budget and total staff when they should instead register their lobby spend and number of lobbyists. This means that some entries are inflated. Alternatively, some major organisations under-declare their lobby spend or their lobbyist numbers, in order to appear that they carry out less lobbying than they really do. The filters, while not perfect, are short-cuts to generate more accurate rankings. But care must be taken. There are some major lobbyists (especially those in Paris or London with easy access to Brussels) which do not have an office in Brussels or which may prioritise meetings with the Parliament and not the Commission, or vice versa. Also Covid 19 significantly reduced the numbers of European Parliament access passes that lobbyists hold. If you prefer to not use these filters, make sure the ‘Either’ options are selected.

  • How can I compare the lobby register in 2012, say, with today?

    Under Search you can look for all lobby register entries (or those of companies, NGOs etc, or those from a specific country) on any given date since 17 February 2012. For example, under 'Get started' you could apply the date of 1 January 2013 and then compare the resulting list with a search based on the same day in 2022.

  • Who decides which organisation appears in which category?

    These categories are those used by the official EU Register. Organisations choose which category they think they best fit into and there are some common errors. For example, too many organisations choose to present themselves as NGOs or think tanks, when they might be best described as trade associations, promoting corporate agendas. More information on how the EU Register describes the specific categories can be found in its official guidance.

  • Under Search, why are there two different figures for lobbyists: ‘EP passes’ and ‘Lobbyists (FTE)’ and which is the best one to use?

    The official EU Register requires registrants to provide several different numbers for their individual lobbyists. The ‘EP passes’ figure is an official figure direct from the European Parliament’s records which provides information on the number of accredited European Parliament passholders. Arguably this is the most reliable figure as the data comes direct from the European Parliament and is not self-declared by registrants. However, it is of course possible to be an active lobby organisation without holding any EP passes at all. It is worth noting that the number of EP passes declined massively during the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic when no visitors were allowed in the Parliament, although the number of passes appears to be rising again in 2022.

    The ‘Lobbyists FTE’ figure is automatically calculated by the Register according to data provided by the registrants themselves. While the ‘EP passes’ figure is an accurate reflection of all lobbyists with EP passes but may not reflect all the lobbyists an organisation actually has, the ‘Lobbyists FTE’ figure is self-declared and so also may not provide a full picture. Too many organisations under-declare their lobbyist numbers, or over-declare, by providing a total number of their staff or members.

    On individual LobbyFacts' data cards an additional figure is given for the total number of lobbyists declared, even if some of them do not work full time on lobbying.

  • How can I find out about EU lobbyists from my country?

    Under Search and 'Get started' you can search for registrants from any country, including the 27 EU member states. The generated list is based on information provided to the Register about the location of the head office of registrants. Of course, you can also perform a different search, and then sort the selected data according to the column ‘Head office in’.

  • What are Commission meetings and where does this data come from?

    Since 1 December 2014, the European Commission has published online lists of all meetings that Commissioners, their Cabinet members, and the Directors-General have had with organisations in the register. The data on LobbyFacts is extracted from Commission datasets (and LobbyFacts then matches reported lobbyists with data from the official EU Register). LobbyFacts includes all published meetings since 1 December 2014. The meetings data is available under Search, while individual datacards for each registrant also provide a full list of its meetings held.

    There are a few important things to note abut this data:

    - a registrant may well have had other lobby meetings with lower-level officials in the Commission, but the only published data covers elite officials only.

    - the data that the Commission publishes may not be perfect. It could include duplications, omissions, and delays. For example, a meeting attended by two separate officials can be reported twice, even though only one meeting was actually held, which can distort the figures.

    Nonetheless, in the view of LobbyFacts, whether or not a registrant has met with the elite of the Commission, is one good indicator of lobby influence in Brussels. LobbyFacts will ensure that the meetings data we publish is updated as often as possible.

  • Why do some organisations appear twice or more on LobbyFacts?

    According to LobbyFacts, hundreds of organisations have registered on the official EU Register and then, at a later date, re-registered (and sometimes even registered a third time!) under different identification numbers once previous registrations have lapsed. The EU Register's secretariat does not permit lapsed organisations to re-register under their original identification number. A search on LobbyFacts will find each and all of the registrations for a given organisation. LobbyFacts aims to link such entries together, but this is work in progress.

    In addition, registrants are required to list any lobby intermediaries (lobby consultancies or law firms) used, and in turn, these intermediaries must list their clients. Unfortunately, there is no standardisation of how intermediaries and clients are listed. For example, a search for 'Shell' under 'Lobby clients by name' will find Shell, RoyalDutchShell, Royal Dutch Shell plc, Shell International, and other permutations. LobbyFacts will help you to find these to get the whole picture.

  • Does LobbyFacts change any data?

    LobbyFacts does not change any data, but we do do some simple curation.

    Firstly, some data is redacted on data protection grounds as detailed in our Privacy statement.

    Secondly, some data is presented differently from the original EU Register. Since September 2021, lobby consultancies are only required to declare their annual revenue from lobbying in ridiculously large bracketed thresholds, which includes the bracket 1 million euros+. In order to provide a more precise figure, LobbyFacts calculates a total for such registrants based on a tally of the individual sums declared per client per year. As these figures are provided in brackets ie. 100,000-199,999, we take the lower figure. This sum is then provided as the field 'Lobbying costs for closed financial year'. It is a more precise figure than the total on the EU Register. But as we use the lower of the bracketed figures, likely the LobbyFacts figure is a major under-estimate.

  • I want a specific dataset. How can LobbyFacts help me get it?

    LobbyFacts can provide journalists with tailored information. If you provide us with a list of registered organisations (plus their Register ID number) which you are interested in, perhaps from a certain sector, we can provide a spreadsheet of all the information we hold on them. Alternatively, we are happy to discuss specific media queries and to help journalists get the lobby data they need to illustrate their stories. Just get in touch.