Untangling the Webs of Immigration Lobbying

For our June Meetup, we're thrilled to have three researchers from the Sunlight Foundation talk about a recent data science project. They analyzed 7,814 lobbying reports related to immigration bills in Congress, and used that data to build an outstanding network analysis and interactive visualization. (To see the full version, click here.) Lee Drutman will frame the question that they tried to answer, then Zander Furnas will get into the nitty-gritty of the analysis and visualization, and Amy Cesal will talk about how they gave the results a compelling and informative visual design. You'll learn about tools like Latent Semantic Analysis, Hierarchical Agglomerative Clustering, Gephi, and sigma.js, and maybe a little bit about lobbying too!


  • 6:30pm -- Networking, Empenadas, and Refreshments
  • 7:00pm -- Introduction
  • 7:15pm -- Presentations and discussion
  • 8:30pm -- Post presentation conversations
  • 8:45pm -- Adjourn for Data Drinks (Tonic, 22nd & G St.)


Amy Cesal is a graphic designer at the Sunlight Foundation. Prior to joining Sunlight, she worked at a small design studio in Adams Morgan as a web and print designer. Amy graduated from American University with a major in graphic design and a minor in marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @amycesal.

Lee Drutman is a Senior Fellow at the Sunlight Foundation and adjunct professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and the University of California. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. from Brown University. He has been quoted by NPR, ABC News, The Colbert Report, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call, among many other news outlets.

Alexander Furnas is a Research Fellow at the Sunlight Foundation. He graduated from Wesleyan University's College of Social Studies (CSS) with a B.A. in Social Studies, and holds an MSc. (oxon) with Distinction in the Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford, UK. Prior to joining the Sunlight Foundation, Alexander worked as a research fellow at the Center for Legislative Research and Advocacy in Delhi, India, on national innovation policy.


For those driving, we encourage you to find parking for this event via our sponsor, ParkMe. ParkMe will help you find the closest, cheapest parking, and has iPhone and Android apps.


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  • Lauren J.

    Hi there, sharing a short blog post about the event: http://laurencjohnson.com/2013/06/25/picturing-how-lobbying-impacts-immigration-reform/ I didn't get too technical in this, but I linked to the Data Community DC blog post and noted that it had more specific details on how the visualization was made.

    June 27, 2013

  • Amy

    Check out the video of the talk: http://youtu.be/J5cMwit0knk

    June 27, 2013

  • Q

    Will the speaker materials and audio be made available?

    June 20, 2013

  • Phil K.

    At first, the presenters didn’t explain the graph well enough. That was not a problem because audience members asked great clarifying questions.

    Also, I especially liked a comment by Zander Furnas. He said something like: When I started it was intimidating because I didn’t know anything. Then I did it—and it wasn’t. And it was fun.

    Some of the best projects are like that—they succeed because staff isn’t afraid to jump in, find and learn the appropriate technologies, and solve the problem. Hiring employers could learn from this. You don’t necessarily have to recruit people who know how to do what you do. It’s more important to work with people like Zander who want to good work and will figure out a way to get it done.

    5 · June 19, 2013

    • Sean Moore G.

      I couldn't agree more. So how do we convince those around us of our capacity to learn quickly? Personally, I try to show that something is a natural extension of what I already do, but that requires understanding of what I already do...

      June 20, 2013

  • Harlan H.

    If anyone would like to write a short blog post about the event for the DC2 blog, that would be fantastic! We'll provide the slides and audio/video, and you'll write a few paragraphs about what was talked about, what you learned, etc. It's a great way to get your name/affiliation in print on a blog with hundreds to thousands of weekly readers. Please email me if you're interested, and we'll get you set up! Thanks! (And thanks to everyone for attending!)

    1 · June 19, 2013

    • Sean Moore G.

      If anyone else is interested in writing, we welcome all.

      June 19, 2013

    • Ong Y.

      Hi Sean, I've been contacted by Harlan on next steps. I would love to assist where needed. This was a great speak session & looking forward to the next event.

      June 19, 2013

  • Jerome Y.

    excellent how-to explanation

    June 19, 2013

  • Michael

    I arrived after meet up, met the inspiration of what insiteful indiiduals account for the development of immigraton Lobbying, brilliant, whish I had attended.

    1 · June 19, 2013

    • Sean Moore G.

      Hopefully Data Drinks afterwards gave you a chance to catch up!

      June 19, 2013

  • Greg T.

    For those who missed the announcement...the new DC area community "Internet of Things DC" has launched. It is focused on the business and technology of the Internet of Things...data-driven devices connected to the Internet. Web site http://iotdc.org and meetup group http://www.meetup.com/Internet-of-Things-DC/ Join us if you work in this industry or want to learn more about the Internet of Things!

    Thanks Harlan, Sean, Marck, and the presenters for last night's interesting topic!

    1 · June 19, 2013

  • Bob K.

    The talk was superb and quite illuminating.

    1 · June 19, 2013

  • Wei

    Great meetup! Thanks to the presenters and organizers!

    2 · June 19, 2013

  • Bradley C.

    An exceptionally rewarding experience - especially for a first-time attendee.

    2 · June 18, 2013

  • Jenni P.

    This was a great meetup.

    1 · June 18, 2013

  • Robert D.

    One of the best I've been too, as well as the most in-depth how-to revealed by a company yet.

    2 · June 18, 2013

  • Jenni P.

    Looking forward to tonight's activities.

    June 18, 2013

  • Colleen C.

    Have a conflict.

    June 18, 2013

  • Q

    Can't make it there. Please make presentations/video links available!

    June 17, 2013

  • Nevin H.

    Sadly, a meeting conflict

    June 17, 2013

  • Abhijit

    Family commitments came up.

    June 16, 2013

  • Paco N.

    This is amazing work!

    May 15, 2013

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