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Libraries for interacting with the Sunlight Labs API

Project description

Python library for interacting with the Sunlight Labs API.

The Sunlight Labs API provides basic legislator information, district lookups, and experimental information on lobbyists. (

python-sunlightapi is a project of Sunlight Labs (c) 2008. Written by James Turk <>.

All code is under a BSD-style license, see LICENSE for details.




python >= 2.4

simplejson >= 1.8 (not required with python 2.6, will use built in json module)


To install run

python install

which will install the bindings into python’s site-packages directory.


To initialize the api, all that is required is for it to be imported and for an API key to be defined.

(If you do not have an API key visit to register for one.)

Import sunlight from sunlightapi:

>>> from sunlightapi import sunlight, SunlightApiError

And set your API key:

>>> sunlight.apikey = 'sunlight-api-key'

legislators methods

The legislators namespace is comprised of several functions:
  • legislators.get - get a single legislator
  • legislators.getList - get zero or more legislators
  • - fuzzy search for legislators by name
  • legislators.allForZip - get all legislators representing a zipcode

get and getList

legislators.get and legislators.getList both take any number of parameters and return all legislators that match the provided criteria. These parameters are also the ones returned in each legislator object.

The available parameters are:
  • title
  • firstname
  • middlename
  • lastname
  • name_suffix
  • nickname
  • party
  • state
  • district
  • in_office
  • gender
  • phone
  • fax
  • website
  • webform
  • email
  • congress_office
  • bioguide_id
  • votesmart_id
  • fec_id
  • govtrack_id
  • crp_id
  • eventful_id
  • sunlight_old_id
  • congresspedia_url
  • twitter_id

To get the representative that represents NC-4:

>>> print sunlight.legislators.get(state='NC', district='4')
Rep. David Price (D-NC)

legislators.getList works much the same way, but returns a list. It is possible to do a more complex query, for instance “all legislators from New York that are Republicans”:

>>> for leg in sunlight.legislators.getList(state='NY', party='R'):
...     print leg
Rep. Pete King (R-NY)
Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY)
Rep. John McHugh (R-NY)

It is preferred that you do not call getList without parameters as it will pull down all legislators, if you need to do this feel free to grab the provided dump of the API data available at


legislators.allForZip retrieves all legislators that represent a given zipcode.

This typically means two senators and one (or more) representatives.

To get all legislators that represent the 27511 zipcode:

>>> for legislator in sunlight.legislators.allForZip(27511):
...     print legislator
Rep. David Price (D-NC)
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC)

districts methods

The districts namespace is comprised of several functions:
  • districts.getDistrictsFromZip
  • districts.getZipsFromDistrict
  • districts.getDistrictFromLatLong


districts.getDistrictsFromZip fetches all districts that overlap a given zipcode.

To get all districts that overlap 14623:
>>> for district in sunlight.districts.getDistrictsFromZip(14623):
...     print district


districts.getZipsFromDistrict fetches all zips that fall within a district.

To get all zipcodes in the NY-29th:
>>> sunlight.districts.getZipsFromDistrict('NY', 29)
[u'14925', u'14905', u'14904', u'14903', u'14902', u'14901', u'14898', u'14897', u'14895', u'14894', u'14893', u'14892', u'14891', u'14889', u'14887', u'14886', u'14885', u'14884', u'14883', u'14880', u'14879', u'14878', u'14877', u'14876', u'14874', u'14873', u'14872', u'14871', u'14870', u'14869', u'14867', u'14865', u'14864', u'14863', u'14861', u'14859', u'14858', u'14857', u'14856', u'14855', u'14846', u'14845', u'14843', u'14842', u'14841', u'14840', u'14839', u'14838', u'14837', u'14836', u'14831', u'14830', u'14827', u'14826', u'14825', u'14824', u'14823', u'14822', u'14821', u'14820', u'14819', u'14818', u'14816', u'14815', u'14814', u'14813', u'14812', u'14810', u'14809', u'14808', u'14807', u'14806', u'14805', u'14804', u'14803', u'14802', u'14801', u'14788', u'14786', u'14783', u'14779', u'14778', u'14777', u'14774', u'14772', u'14770', u'14766', u'14760', u'14755', u'14754', u'14753', u'14751', u'14748', u'14747', u'14745', u'14744', u'14743', u'14741', u'14739', u'14738', u'14737', u'14735', u'14731', u'14730', u'14729', u'14727', u'14726', u'14721', u'14719', u'14717', u'14715', u'14714', u'14711', u'14709', u'14708', u'14707', u'14706', u'14625', u'14624', u'14623', u'14620', u'14618', u'14610', u'14606', u'14586', u'14585', u'14572', u'14564', u'14561', u'14560', u'14559', u'14548', u'14547', u'14546', u'14544', u'14543', u'14536', u'14534', u'14532', u'14529', u'14527', u'14526', u'14522', u'14518', u'14514', u'14513', u'14512', u'14507', u'14506', u'14504', u'14502', u'14489', u'14487', u'14485', u'14478', u'14475', u'14472', u'14471', u'14469', u'14467', u'14466', u'14463', u'14461', u'14456', u'14453', u'14450', u'14445', u'14443', u'14441', u'14437', u'14432', u'14428', u'14425', u'14424', u'14418', u'14415', u'14414', u'14173', u'14171', u'14168', u'14141', u'14138', u'14133', u'14129', u'14101', u'14081', u'14070', u'14065', u'14060', u'14042', u'14041', u'14030', u'14029', u'14024', u'14009']


districts.getDistrictFromLatLong finds the district that a given lat-long coordinate pair falls within.

To find out what district 61.13 N, 149.54 W falls within:
>>> print sunlight.districts.getDistrictFromLatLong(61.13, 149.54)

This point is in fact in Anchorage, Alaska, so this is correct.

lobbyists methods

The lobbyists namespace contains:
  • lobbyists.getFiling
  • lobbyists.getFilingList


To get all details on a single filing by id:

>>> filing = sunlight.lobbyists.getFiling('29D4D19E-CB7D-46D2-99F0-27FF15901A4C')
>>> print filing
29D4D19E-CB7D-46D2-99F0-27FF15901A4C - Sunlight Foundation for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
>>> for lobbyist in filing.lobbyists:
...     print lobbyist
>>> for issue in filing.issues:
...     print issue


To get all filings of a particular client or registrant:

>>> for filing in sunlight.lobbyists.getFilingList(client_name='SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION'):
...     print filing
79DAF5B3-3444-4966-A5F1-844A647EB200 - Bernstein Strategy Group for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
04693B31-E97E-4A42-A157-12B4639A4319 - Sunlight Foundation for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
29D4D19E-CB7D-46D2-99F0-27FF15901A4C - Sunlight Foundation for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
03404F3C-3084-4B2E-949F-0788E86E547F - Bernstein Strategy Group for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
713046BC-0EA7-4547-843F-FFD4716BD0EB - Bernstein Strategy Group for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
17E43624-A38F-4E42-9CA3-0BC8737A169A - Sunlight Foundation for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
9BB3FF43-34FF-454C-B796-45DB5CA10EFC - Bernstein Strategy Group for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
4209EEC2-E946-45B7-8B9C-87DF85BD15C2 - Sunlight Foundation for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
C4438A23-7036-4FF0-860B-5EB2FE842AA7 - Bernstein Strategy Group for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION
1BB3B0FA-220C-464E-A7D1-F609010ABC0C - Sunlight Foundation for SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION


To use a fuzzy name-matching search to find lobbyists filings:

>>> for r in'Nosha Thrompson', year=2008):
...     print r
0.945396825397 NISHA THOMPSON (Sunlight Foundation)

wordlist methods

The wordlist namespace is used for maintaining and using lists of words primarily to be used for stopword filtering.

It contains the methods: * get * update * filter_stopwords


wordlist.get(list_name) gets a stopword list by name.

To get a python list of stopwords:

>>> sunlight.wordlist.get('test_articles')
['a', 'an', 'the']


wordlist.update(list_name, words) creates or updates a stopword list.

An example would look something like:

>>> try:
...     sunlight.wordlist.update('test_articles', ['a', 'an', 'the'])
... except SunlightApiError, e:
...     print e
Attempt to modify wordlist that belongs to another user

Note that you can only update a wordlist that you created, attempting to modify someone elses wordlist will result in a 403 - Access Denied error


Once a wordlist exists the primary use is to remove all stopwords from a block of text using the filter_stopwords method.

An example of using filter_stopwords for just that:

>>> sunlight.wordlist.filter_stopwords('test_articles', 'The boy named Frank ate a banana and an apple')
'boy named frank ate banana and apple'

You’ll notice that punctuation has been stripped and capitalized words are no longer capitalized. This is a side effect of the filtering process that comes in handy when creating word frequency visualizations (the intended purpose of the stopword API)

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