Knowing about the impact of lobby organisations on legislation is a condition for a well-functioning democratic system. If civil society are supposed to control political power in democracies, each citizen needs access to all the information created by the political entities.

Since 2010, has been running a blog publishing articles about lobbyism and transparency . This is also how our initiative for a lobby index started. Back then, tried to get an official list of all lobbyists granted access to the German Parliament and discovered that parties provided permanent access authorization to many lobbyists, so that they did not need to register every time they visited the Bundestag. As was denied access to this list, we sued the federal Parliament to get it and succeeded. The list of 1103 lobbyists who got house IDs was finally published in 2015. Further illustration why Germany does need a lobby index may not be necessary, but indeed this is not the only example which exposes the lack of transparency in German politics. In 2008, Angela Merkel invited the head of the Deutsche Bank, Joseph Ackermann, to hold his birthday dinner at the chancellery. A complete guest list was never published – not even on demand – , and again, had to take legal proceedings to get the information on such events and recently the administrative court of Berlin ruled in our favour. Knowing about the solution and facing examples of democratic deficiency have lead to start a campaign for a lobby index.
In fact, there is no binding obligation to publish information about lobby work in Germany. Hence, controlling and surveying lobby work in an effective way is impossible. There is only an outdated register of associations existing since 1972. First of all, some lobbyists cannot register because they are not organisations in a strict sense of the term, for example lawyers, private players or enterprises are excluded. Secondly, you need to apply to get registered; the registration is not mandatory. Thirdly, there is no information about the extent and impact on legislation of lobbying players. Meanwhile politicians and political institutions suffer a lack of confidence. Citizens claim more transparency and they are willing to support the request of a lobby index. Even some interest groups are in favour of such a register because it does not intent to abolish lobby work but just wants to make the process of political decision making transparent for everyone. Transparency is a good and simple way to create and restore trust after all.

There are enough reasons for to campaign for a mandatory lobby index. We are trying to give a short overview how this campaign was organised and what impact it had so far.
Cooperating with partners who have the same interests helps maintaining pressure during a long period without burning you out – and this is essential to make campaigns work successfully. has already been working with Lobby Control before, and this cooperation was intensified for the lobby index. In this case it was a very obvious and natural associate.
We were at the point where simply demanding more transparency and a lobby index iwas not enough any more. To make the public debate more aware and sustainable, precise proposals were required. This is why in 2017, and Lobby Control worked out a bill which was also accessible to the public for feedback; to give everybody the opportunity to participate and make suggestions to improve it. The first step was collecting the fundamental ideas which needed to be in the law. We got some ideas by a SPD-engineered bill from 2010, and also looked at the situation in other countries, Canada for instance . This first draft was revised by and Lobby Control and finally by a lawyer who provided the juridical know-how. The feed-back process started and there were about 300 comments on the bill.
The principal idea of the lobby index is the legislative footprint. Every activity of lobbyists that works towards a certain piece of legislation, like a law, must be recorded. In general, everybody who gets in verbal, written or electronic contact with politicians or office holders, being involved in the legislative process, needs to register per se and they also need to register when they met and with whom and what the meeting was concerning. Nevertheless, registration of meetings between politicians and lobbyists is not sufficient. The lobby index would include complete and comprehensive information about the registered actors and the laws they worked on. This includes financial and human resources of a player, clients for which the lobby work is carried out and how much money is spent.

Obviously, this concept requires accurate and precise definitions. For instance, not every contact between politicians and citizens need to be registered. For instanceexample, players who spend less than 1,500 Euros per quarter do not need to register. The index would be organized and maintained by an independent federal department elected by the German Parliament. The index is meant to be mandatory, including possible sanctions for not respecting these binding rules: Firstly, violations can and should be published. Secondly, there are financial sanctions, for instance financial advantages gained in the aftermath of lobby work not respecting the registration rules should be compensated. However, the aim is not to get this bill implemented in every detail. It is more a starting point for a debate about concrete measures going beyond the discussion if an index is necessary or not.
It is not enough for campaigns to be committed and propose solutions and good arguments for why something needs to be changed. By mobilising people and constant media coverage, an emotional dimension can be constructed. This is difficult when it comes to technical constructions such as the lobby index. Our German blog is very important because it shows concrete examples and tells stories people are interested in. Petitions are another powerful measure to raise awareness but also to mobilise people. The demand for more transparency and a lobby index was signed more than 227 000 times on In March, 178.376 signatures and the draft bill were presented publicly to Ansgar Heveling, the president of the committee on internal affairs in the German parliament and member of the CDU (which has been opposing to a mandatory lobby index for a long time). Such public events help to show that something is happening and it involves the individual supporters.

Although the social democratic party (SPD) supports a lobby index, they were not able to get their demand accepted in the coalition negotiations with the christian democratic union (CDU). Therefore it is still important to keep the campaign running by staying in contact with politicians supporting the demand and by broadening the support in the civil society.