State by State Guide to Lobbying Data

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. 

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Politicians' Deleted Tweets Now Archived and Searchable Again

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. 

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State by State Guide to Campaign Finance Data

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.

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Power Search for California Campaign Contributions

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.  

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Obscure Federal Database of Wine Labels Used to Solve Mysterious Disappearance of Award-Winning Wine

A recent investigation by The Arizona Republic utilized a little-known federal database of wine, beer and spirit labels to help solve the mysterious disappearance of an award-winning wine. The U.S. Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Public COLA Registry (Certificates of Label Approval) allows the public to search for wine, beer and spirit labels applied for by alcoholic beverage manufacturers. 

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Searching Political TV Commercials

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. 

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The Road to Rep. Aaron Schock's Resignation As Told By Public Records

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.  

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Michigan FOIA Laws Reformed to Improve Access to Public Records

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.

For more, see the bill text of HB 4001, and this coverage in the Detroit Free Press.