We distinguish between "satellite government," which consists of the entities described in this database, and what is sometimes called "shadow government" and is often linked to corruption. Most of the entities described in this database have been established through some expression of public-sector authority and are legally governed by the sunshine requirements of Open Meetings and Public Records Acts.

The same cannot be said of shadow government, which describes a realm of influence that operates off the public radar screen and is not legally constrained by sunshine requirements. An example might be what an earlier era of American history characterized as interlocking directorates — members of various boards and commissions whose social, economic, or family ties gave rise to shared interests that motivated them to exercise their institutional authority in ways that served their common private interests. This database does not attempt to measure influence as it might sometimes be expressed through shadow government.

The database also does not measure corruption, which is understood as the illegal use of public power for private gain. The database may indicate opportunities for corruption by identifying areas of opacity or limited oversight, but direct evidence of corruption would require additional research.

We urge users to maintain the distinction between the satellite government entities described in this database and the realm of shadow government and corruption.