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Regulating government affairs: A deep dive into online lobbying registers

February 22, 2024 • By Khushbu Agrawal, Dr Alexander Katsaitis

In the complex landscape of modern governance, the practice of lobbying has reached unprecedented levels of sophistication with significant spending. With this evolution comes a pressing need for effective regulation of lobbying to uphold institutional integrity. Governments worldwide are increasingly turning to digital solutions to enhance transparency and accountability in policymaking, in part due to their cost-effectiveness and efficiency, and the regulation of lobbying is no exception. As the introduction of online lobbying registers has gained a traction in the recent years,  International IDEA´s latest paper "Mapping and Analysing Lobbying Registers" provides a comprehensive overview of existing lobbying registers.  

The paper reviews the performance of 16 lobbying registers in operation as of 2023 according to three interlinked dimensions: i) transparency; ii) regulatory capacity; iii) interoperability (Table 1). Under ‘transparency’, the paper examines the scope of lobbying information collected by the register in question, as well as how that information is administered and subsequently disclosed. Regulatory capacity refers to the extent to which lobbying takes place within specific legal boundaries and/or enforceable norms of behavior, and to what extent it requires actors to report information about other regulatory issues such as political donations and public procurement. Finally, interoperability looks at whether and how a register is designed to enable cross-checking with other public data sets in the same country and with other lobbying registers across jurisdictions. By looking at these three dimensions, the paper conducts a systematic comparative assessment, benchmarks the registers’ performance, and highlights good practices. 

The need to systematically map and compare registers

While lobbying registers hold immense potential as a centralized resource for consolidating regulatory measures, monitoring lobbying activities, and promoting transparency in government affairs, their efficacy hinges on proper implementation and oversight. Inadequately designed registers may create a facade of transparency while enabling unethical lobbying practices to persist. Moreover, there is a dearth of research evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of lobbying registers, hindering efforts to improve and refine these essential tools. This paper intends to fill this gap and advance an evidence-based debate on what constitutes an effective lobbying register and what kinds of related reforms could improve transparency in policymaking. 

Table 1: Criteria and Measures for Assessing Lobbying Registers´ Capabilities


Regulatory Capability


Breadth of information collected

Obligatory Registration

Coordinates with regulators within jurisdiction

Tracks legislative footprint

Code of Conduct

Coordinates with regulators outside of jurisdiction

Tracks meetings with elected representatives

Cross-references with political financing

Allows third party contributions/ participation

Tracks meetings with ministers

Cross-references with public procurement data

Is built with open-by-default principle

Tracks meetings with public administrators

Interinstitutional register


Website is in user-friendly format

Provides whistleblowing option


Data is downloadable



Data is in user-friendly format



Key recommendations

Based on the assessment, the paper provides the following key considerations for policymakers in designing and implementing lobbying registers: 

In terms of Transparency: 

1. Cross-institutional registers set up under public authorities that hold a wider remit appear to be better able to bridge the broad range of regulatory concerns associated with lobbying activities. 

2. Registers with broader lobbying definitions can address a wider set of interest group types. This offers a more nuanced understanding of the lobbying activity that takes place within a political system. In turn, this offers greater transparency and security against risks of corruption.

In terms of Regulatory Capability:

3.  The wider the breadth of information collected about interest group activities the better the registers’ regulatory capacity. For example, lobbying registers that examine different types of activities (such as financial donations) offer greater insight in comparison to those that do not.

4. Registers would benefit from a rounder approach that addresses, collects, and provides information on lobbying from a policymaker's perspective. That would require policymakers to independently register information on meetings they have with interest group representatives.

5. Registers can act as a central hub reflecting and coordinating the collective work between different public authorities addressing are linked to interest group activity. For example, political financing data or procurement data should be automatically cross-referenced with other relevant databases. 

6. Given the growth of “revolving doors”, addressing this more systematically would shed more light on the phenomenon, would help inform policy, and actively limit potential hidden conflicts of interest. 

In terms of Interoperability: 

7. Registers should test their user-friendliness with citizen focus groups. Most webpages are not as easy to navigate for the average citizen and would benefit front-end work. Even well-performing registers can improve their transparency in this area. 

8.  Formal coordination between lobbying registers is an important and necessary dimension that seems to be unaddressed. 

These findings and recommendations are elaborated in detail in the discussion paper available hereDrafted by Dr Alexander Katsaitis, Stockholm University, the paper contributes to International IDEA’s wider research initiative on the interlinkages between money in politics and the new forms of political participation. Moving forward, the Institute will continue to expand its work in the area, aiming to harness full potential of tools such as lobbying registers in complementing existing anti-corruption measures, safeguarding democratic principles, and fostering public trust.

About the authors

Khushbu Agrawal
Adviser, Money in Politics
Headshot of Alexander Katsaitis
Dr Alexander Katsaitis
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