July 4th marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act, which has just been newly amended to improve public record access and modernize the law.Read More
Lobbying data is an essential resource when researching influence over elected officials. Lobbyist registrations and expenditures have become readily accessible to search and download, but access to this data varies widely by state. To make this easier to navigate, VR Research has prepared this 50 state guide for how to access, search and download lobbying data.Read More
Politwoops, an archive of tweets that politicians have deleted from Twitter after posting, is once again active and searchable. The website allows for searching of an individual politician's deleted tweets, filtering by state, political party or political office, and keyword searching.Read More
VR Research has prepared a state-by-state guide to researching campaign contributions and expenditures, providing information about and links to campaign finance data in all 50 states. As more states have moved to requiring electronic filing of campaign finance reports, data has become much easier to search, has been indexed to allow many different cuts at the data and is downloadable in several formats. However, the approaches to presenting, indexing and providing access to this data vary widely by state.Read More
The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, a massive archive of 19 years of captured websites, has received funding for a next-generation overhaul which will add some search capabilities and enhance how it captures webpages and displays media-rich content.Read More
The California Secretary of State in coordination with non-profit MapLight has unveiled a new Power Search tool for accessing California campaign contributions. Power Search allows users to more readily review candidate and committee contributions and provides an easy interface for looking up individual contributors.Read More
Today the Securities and Exchange Commission voted to adopt a final rule requiring that public companies disclose the "pay ratio" measuring the difference between the compensation for their CEOs and their average rank-and-file employees--providing newly public insight into how much companies pay their workforce.Read More
With the retirement of longtime Librarian of Congress James Billington, the next Librarian has big decisions to make that could revolutionize the world's largest library by bringing more of its collections to the Internet. The Atlantic has written a great article on the possibilities that await, and could potentially transform the Library of Congress into a true national library.Read More
Political TV ads from current and past campaigns can be a valuable resource when researching a candidate or campaign. While YouTube provides a helpful starting point for finding political ads of interest, several advanced search tools are available to find how much candidates spent to buy ad time, as well as archives to find older TV ads not otherwise found online.Read More
While Rep. Aaron Schock was making headlines last week, resigning Congress amid reports he had overcharged taxpayers for more in mileage reimbursements than his vehicle had on the odometer, ProPublica published a fascinating article about how government records were used to uncover another congressional mileage reimbursement scandal more than 166 years ago.Read More
Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock resigned today following a steady drip of revelations about ethical improprieties with his congressional and campaign spending practices. The news investigations into Rep. Schock over recent weeks provide special insight into a number of public records research strategies and illustrate the value of those records to demonstrate how a public official has problems with wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.Read More
Under a new Michigan law effective July 1, 2015, requestors of public records submitted under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act will be better protected against excessive fees and delays. The law will improve access to Michigan's public records in several key ways, including:
- Upon request, agencies must provide records by e-mail or other electronic non-paper formats where possible.
- Copy costs for paper documents will be capped at $0.10/page.
- Public agencies would be subject to increased court-ordered fines if an agency is found to have unlawfully denied, delayed or overcharged for a request.