Dive Deeper Into Lobbying Activity With California Lobby Search

Increased disclosure of lobbying activities around the country has shed light on corporate and special interest influence on politics, however the data can sometimes be difficult to navigate and understand. California State Lobbying Search is a simple-to-use Web site that makes this data easy to analyze.

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When is a lien not a lien?

Liens are usually considered adverse, but can be filed for many different reasons, not all of which are adverse. In this blog, we go over the various types of liens that can be filed against research subjects, including tax liens, mechanic’s liens and homeowner’s association liens and special tax or assessment liens, which are not considered adverse.

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Civil Grand Jury Holding City of Santa Clara Accountable for Open Records Law

Expanding on our May post outlining the process of civil grand juries in California, our latest blog details a recent report issued by a Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury. The Grand Jury initially launched an investigation of contracting procedures related to the football stadium built in Santa Clara, however after the city failed to respond to numerous public records requests, the Grand Jury shifted its focus to the city’s noncompliance with California Public Records Act (CPRA) law. The Grand Jury’s report includes helpful background on the CPRA and an agency’s duty to respond to requests, as well as a detailed account of all the records requested by the Grand Jury and how each request was handled. In this instance, the Grand Jury also exercised its right under California law to request that the City of Santa Clara respond to the report’s findings and recommendations.

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Bigfoot Found...In FBI's Digital Reading Room

The Bigfoot file was recently published in the FBI’s electronic reading room known as the Vault, a repository of thousands of pages of previously released FBI records, all of which are both interesting in their own right and useful in guiding you as you draft and submit requests to the FBI. 

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San Francisco DA First in California to Post Prosecution Data Online

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has become the first DA in California to post prosecution statistics on a publicly available website.  The DA Stat site hosts three dashboards - arrests presented, incoming caseload and trials - containing statistical information on both felony and misdemeanor matters presented to and acted on by Gascón’s office. Data on the DA Stat site goes back to 2011 and is updated monthly. 

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Naomi Wolf and A Lesson in Usage and Context

The key to any analysis of public records is understanding the proper context of the records, which speak the language and impart the meaning contemporaneous with the time in which they were created. If the context under which the records were created is misunderstood, then the analysis can be misconfigured and lead to erroneous conclusions. In this blog, we discuss how the controversy surrounding major errors discovered in author Naomi Wolf latest book, “Outrages” Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love,” provides a cautionary tale of misunderstood language leading to a misconfigured context. The lesson for researchers:  be very careful about your understanding of terms and always remember that the understanding is contemporary to the usage, not to the present time.

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A Guide to Civil Grand Juries in California

In California, civil grand juries provide valuable records of civilian oversight of government activity, which can allow for an assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of local government.  Civil grand juries are primarily tasked with being government watchdogs, as part of the judicial branch – as such, each civil grand juror is a judicial officer. Civil grand juries are selected by a presiding judge and Jury Commissioner and work together to publish publicly viewable reports that investigate local elected officials, cities, and more agencies within the county’s purview.  In this entry, we will discuss how civil grand juries operate in California, including the scope of their work and how to locate the reports that they issue upon completion of their work. 

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Over 13 Million Newly Available Records of Nazi War Crimes Indexed and Posted Online by Arsolen Archives

The Arsolen Archives, International Center on Nazi Persecution recently uploaded more than 13 million documents to a new online archive.  Working with the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem, the archive has created a database that contains concentration camp prisoner cards and death notices among many additional types of documents.  In total, the recently uploaded documents feature information on over 2.2 million people persecuted by the Nazis. 

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Researching International Companies

It has become much easier to research international corporations thanks to the OpenCorporates database, which is the largest open database of companies in the world with over 169 million companies and over 223 million officers indexed from 131 jurisdictions.  When approaching large corporate entities with an international reach, OpenCorporates provides a useful starting point and is especially helpful in narrowing the list of jurisdictions where companies are registered and in obtaining online corporate registration filings. 

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Judicial Oversight Process

When considering the background of a judge, there’s a tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to the jurist – after all, if an individual has worked all the way up to being a judge, surely they’ve been investigated at multiple stages along the way, right?  But, what exactly does that vetting consist of?  Where would you check to see if there have been any prior issues?  In this blog, we look closer at the judicial oversight process in California.

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Ensuring Transparent Procurement

In most cities, the procurement of goods or services follows similar steps – the process starts with the city agency in need of the services writing a bid solicitation or Request for Proposal (RFP), which is then released publicly.  Bid solicitations have traditionally been published in an official city newspaper, though many cities have also begun to list open RFPs online.  New York City, for example, publishes a city newspaper called The City Record that lists all open contracts, as well as public hearings, property auctions and personnel changes within departments. Researchers interested in the public contracting process should familiarize themselves with the exact process in the locale in which they are working and also probe for the existence of resources like The City Record.

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