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Author Topic: Do-It-Yourself Opposition Research  (Read 205 times)
syntaxmachine
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« on: February 14, 2013, 01:13:17 AM »

An increasingly integral component of contemporary American politics is in-depth research on opposition candidates. A candidate may have his own campaign conduct such research, though if funds are limited this function will typically be delegated to party organizations or political advocacy groups of one sort or another; alternatively, consults may be utilized.

The goal is to find dirt and then utilize it at the right time in the campaign, either sending it to the media anonymously or publicly releasing and commenting on the information.

This series of posts will educate Getbiggers on the basics of such research: the use of publicly-available tools to create a research document on a given candidate. These are just the basics, but I hope this will be of educational value all the same.
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syntaxmachine
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 01:21:25 AM »

News Searches
 
One of the best sources of good information about candidates for public office is the most obvious:
newspapers. Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to search newspapers for articles in which a candidate is discussed or quoted. Most newspapers now have online search engines (though an increasing number of them charge a fee to retrieve articles from their archives), and search engines like Google offer a news search that generally does an excellent job of flagging (more recent) articles from large and small newspapers. 
 
Google’s Advanced Search Options can help to narrow your findings using specific words, phrases and dates. There's also a feature allowing you to pull search results based on publication, location and source author. Other options for searching newspapers include pay services such as Lexis Nexis and Newsbank.   
The upside of these services is that they are much more comprehensive and generally have a deeper archive than you’ll find through a standard Google search. The downside is that both can be very expensive.
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Purge_WTF
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 08:53:28 AM »

Turn off Fox and MSNBC, and check to see who's funding a candidate's campaign coffers. If Americans did those two simple things more often, we'd be a lot better off.
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Psalm 23.
syntaxmachine
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 12:33:38 PM »

Turn off Fox and MSNBC, and check to see who's funding a candidate's campaign coffers. If Americans did those two simple things more often, we'd be a lot better off.

That can be helpful, but the result of Citizens United is that outside entities can spend as much money as they like for or against a candidate as long as they aren't explicitly coordinating with a candidate in the race. This is a joke because it isn't practical to constantly monitor covert communications to discover coordinating efforts and because the law is easily skirted via technicalities (candidate C announces at a press conference the importance of pointing out the flaws in his opponent's tax policy, after which all the outside groups subsequently begin beating that drum, though no communications were shared between staff members).

SuperPAC's require a name and address for each donor which they subsequently report to the FEC, but does anyone think the FEC is verifying all of the data they've been handed? Further, people can donate via a corporation or LLC, and if it's got unclear ownership structure, the identity of the donor is obscured. Finally, due to some IRS law or other, any group can from a non-profit wing and take unlimited anonymous donations as long as only half the money is spent on politics and as long as that which is spent counts as "issue advocacy."

I don't know how likely it is, but for all we know Al Qaeda, foreign governments, and other undesirable elements could help fund an American campaign if they really wanted to.
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2013, 01:05:21 PM »

Property Ownership
 
Your County Treasurer’s office can provide information on where an individual owns property within the County, the value of the property and frequently when the individual purchased it, the purchase price and from whom they purchased it. The County Recorder will have additional records pertaining to property, including mortgage documents.
 
In many counties, it is possible to search such records online, but doing so sometimes requires paying a fee. 
 
Property Tax Payments
 
Once you’ve determined what properties that an individual owns, your County Treasurer can also provide information on how much the individual pays in property taxes, whether they’ve paid on time and whether they have ever had to pay interest or other late penalties.
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2013, 11:56:04 PM »

Voter Registration and Participation
 
City and County Clerks can provide records on which elections in which an individual or individual have voted, as well as registration data such as how long the individual has been registered.  
 
Court Records
Most court cases are public records and can usually be searched at the court clerks’ office and sometimes online. Federal courts can be searched online (for a fee) at www.pacer.gov. Court documents for newer cases can generally be obtained online, but again, for a fee.  

State court cases can be searched in a variety of manners as well.

Voting Records for Members of Congress
 
A number of excellent (and free) sources of information on Congressional voting records are available on the Internet.  
 
•  Library of Congress:  Thomas.loc.gov provides bill descriptions, roll call votes, bill sponsorships and other information.
 
•  Washington Post:  The Washington Post offers an excellent database on Congressional voting records and other information. http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/112/
 
•  GovTrack.Us: GovTrack.us offers Congressional voting records dating back decades. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes.xpd
 
•  Project Vote Smart: www.votesmart.org provides biographical information and limited voting record information on members of Congress and state-level elected officials. VoteSmart also provides scorecards issued by organizations like the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters and other advocacy groups that can serve as an excellent source of voting record information.

Voting Records for Members of the State Legislature

•  Project Vote Smart: www.votesmart.org

Voting Records for Local Elected Officials
 
City or County Clerks generally maintain minutes of all local government meetings. In many municipalities, these minutes are frequently available on the Internet.
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