How we did it: Examining Rep. Bilbray’s influence and legislation

To examine Congressman Brian Bilbray’s ties to industries, companies and groups, inewsource used a variety of public records, including:

  • Campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Committee to determine who gave money to his campaign and his leadership political action committee. We also utilized the search engines and analysis on OpenSecrets, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics that includes analysis of federal campaign data.
  • Lobbying disclosure reports that unions, associations, companies and other groups filed with the House Clerk to determine who reported paying to lobby specifically on bills that Bilbray sponsored and cosponsored. We also utilized OpenSecrets for this, as it allows the public to search the disclosure reports by bill number.
  • Legislation documents housed in the Library of Congress, including bill titles and descriptions, as well as records of amendments, votes and other actions. We also utilized bill summaries released by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan group that researches legislation.
  • Details on earmark requests maintained by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit, federal spending watchdog group.
  • Travel disclosure reports filed with the House Clerk to determine if any of Bilbray’s top contributors or entities that lobbied on his legislation paid for him or his staff to take trips.
  • Personal financial forms filed with the House Clerk to determine if Filner or his spouse have any obvious financial ties to his top contributors or those that lobbied on bills he sponsored.

To examine those ties, we also:

  • Attempted to interview several of the companies and groups that were among Bilbray’s top contributors and benefited from his legislation, earmarks or endorsements. Those companies either declined an interview or did not return multiple messages. We also interviewed two experts in campaign finance and lobbying.
  • Researched the position that unions, associations, companies and other groups had on Bilbray’s legislation to determine whether they lobbied against or in favor of his bills.
  • Searched the Internet, including social media, event invitations, and letters to federal agencies, among other things, to examine any relationship between Bilbray, his top contributors and those who have lobbied on his bills.

This is the latest in an occasional series examining the legislative influence of San Diego’s congressmen. To read the last story, on Congressman Bob Filner, click here.

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About Brad Racino:

Brad Racino
Brad Racino is a senior reporter and assistant director at inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email bradracino [at] inewsource [dot] org.