|Presentation from BlogCon 2013
“Stop Regurgitating Content: Finding the Story That Isn’t Yet a Story”
List of Sources/Lists
Presentation from BlogConCLT 2012
|When I need to do some digging, I get started by accessing a few different sources, depending upon the subject matter at hand. The subscription-based databases usually offer the most reliable and in-depth content, but thanks to open-source technology, several non-profit organizations have developed free online tools that provide easy access to specialty data that used to be quite cumbersome to deal with. While some are funded in part by private donors, this isn’t typically an issue since the raw data itself is what you’re accessing. Nonetheless, it’s always best to cross-check your research with multiple sources to be sure you are getting the most accurate information possible. Finding the source of information is often the hardest part of the job. While certainly not all-inclusive, below is a list of some research databases and tools that I typically use in my own investigatory tasks that should make your research tasks a lot easier.
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I used to work for this company, so I of course recommend it! Arguably the largest database collection of news, company, legal and public records sources, LexisNexis is probably the best research tool out there. Of course, that greatness comes at a cost – but if you don’t have a subscription to the service, you can purchase either Pay As You Go packages, or a LexisNexis by Credit Card menu (just sign up and use your credit card). This allows for flexibility by the document, day, week or month. Searching is free, you only pay if you want to get the details on any of the results.
OpenSecrets.org is your nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. Whether you’re a voter, journalist, activist, student or interested citizen, use their free site to shine light on your government. Count cash and make change.
The FEC Disclosure Database enables you to find the most current summary information about one or more candidates or committees. Search by state, party, office, or name. Follow the links to names and other information to see more detailed financial data. Data from the last two congressional election cycles are available here. Also view campaign finance reports and data, electioneering communications, independent expenditures, and Lobbyist registrations.
Have you ever wanted to find more information on government spending? Have you ever wondered where Federal contracting dollars and grant awards go? Or perhaps you would just like to know, as a citizen, what the Government is really doing with your money. USAspending provides a searchable database of contracts and awards by entity name and location, award amount, and transaction type.
See also its partner site, FedSpending.org for grants, loans, insurance, subsidies and direct payments.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit organization revealing the influence of campaign money on state-level elections and public policy in all 50 states. Our comprehensive and verifiable campaign-finance database and relevant issue analyses are available for free through our Web site FollowTheMoney.org. We encourage transparency and promote independent investigation of state-level campaign contributions by journalists, academic researchers, public-interest groups, government agencies, policymakers, students and the public at large.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 required that a website be created to “foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of funds made available in this Act.” Recovery.gov went live on February 17, 2009, the day President Obama signed the Act into law. The site’s primary mandate is to give taxpayers user-friendly tools to track Recovery funds — how and where they are spent— in the form of charts, graphs, and maps that provide national overviews down to specific zip codes.
Download all the raw data behind the recipient and agency maps to create your own reports.
The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration administers and enforces most provisions of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The LMRDA was enacted primarily to ensure basic standards of democracy and fiscal responsibility in labor organizations representing employees in private industry. Search public disclosure database for union/payee information.
The Center for Union Facts has gathered a wealth of information about the size, scope, political activities, and criminal activity of the labor movement in the United States of America. It has compiled the single most comprehensive database of information about labor unions in the United States. The database contains more than 100 million facts, ranging from basic union finances and leader salaries, to political operations, to strikes and unfair labor practices, and much more. The data comes from various local, state, and federal government agencies that track labor union operations.
(Another of my personal favorites!)
Muckety is an online tool for mapping relations and measuring influence. Published by Muckety LLC, a company founded in 2006 by a team with years of experience in journalism, technology and online publishing. The name Muckety derives, of course, from muckety mucks. Some follow the money. We follow the muckety, producing a daily news and information site based on online databases (which we enlarge daily), extensive research and old-fashioned journalism.
LegiStorm is the exclusive online home of congressional staff salaries. This is the only spot on the web where you can find out who’s making the big money on Capitol Hill and who’s toiling for peanuts. Legistorm also has the disclosures of members of Congress and their top staffers available for view, including their personal disclosures, as well as their travel, foreign gifts and earmarks.
Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations described in Section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, is a list of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. This online version is offered to help you conduct a more efficient search of these organizations.
If you care about nonprofits and the work they do, then you’re affected by what GuideStar does—even if this is your first visit to http://www.guidestar.org. You see, we gather and publicize information about nonprofit organizations. Our reach is far and wide. Our database is broad and deep.
If you need to do corporate searches, you’ve come to the right place. Coordinated Legal Technologies has compiled these links for legal professionals and others who are looking for quick access to the corporate information available in online searchable databases maintained by the Secretary of State for any given state. The extent of information available and the way in which it is present varies from state to state. Some states provide only a business name lookup, while others offer search by officer and director names, and UCC filing information. Please be sure to check the hosting state entity for the specifics of the type of content offered and the time periods covered.
Transparency has a Posse! Their list of “insanely useful websites” lives up to its name. Includes links to the following databases, many of which are among my own favorites and are already listed separately on this page:
If you’re looking to dig up anything in politics and shine some sunlight on it, this is a fantastic place to start. They know how to do research right.
Founded in 1977, the Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation’s oldest nonprofit investigative news organization, producing multimedia reporting that has impact and is relevant to people’s lives. Building on their long track record of award-winning print, broadcast and web reporting, CIR is now seeking to help lead the way in transforming journalism for the 21st century. [LEFT leaning donors]
To get a sampling of their less partisan work, take look at this great visual chart they did on “SEIU Money and Influence“.
A Guide to the Political Left. Launched in 2005 by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, DiscoverTheNetworks.com is the largest publicly accessible database defining the chief groups and individuals of the Left and their organizational interlocks – an online encyclopedia of the political left and its intricate interconnections. DTN is a model for understanding how the left operates in our society, and how the networks it has created have penetrated our philanthropic, educational, and religious institutions.
KeyWiki is a bipartisan knowledge base focusing primarily on corruption and the covert side of politics in the United States and globally. While particular interest is taken in the left, KeyWiki serves to expose covert politics on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The site’s editor is Trevor Loudon, of New Zeal.
SourceWatch is your guide to the names behind the news. SourceWatch is a collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy to produce a directory of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. A primary purpose of SourceWatch is documenting the PR and propaganda activities of public relations firms and public relations professionals engaged in managing and manipulating public perception, opinion and policy.
NOTE: Use this source with a grain of salt. While they claim to be non-partisan, much of their information describing grassroots liberty-minded groups like The 9/12 Project and Tea Party groups is inaccurate or intentionally misleading. In challenging their content in these cases, editors responded with source materials that they claim back up the content entries; however, much of that source material itself is comprised of inaccurate opinion pieces and malicious political smear pieces.
GovTrack.us was the first website worldwide whose primary goal was to provide free comprehensive legislative tracking for everyday citizens and to embrace Web 2.0 and open data for government information. Use their automated trackers to keep track of all activity on legislation. (I don’t recommend the blog portion of the site, as it presents a very partisan viewpoint that is tipped in favor of the Left).
Taxpayers for Common Sense is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan budget watchdog serving as an independent voice for American taxpayers. Our mission is to achieve a government that spends taxpayer dollars responsibly and operates within its means. We work with individuals, policymakers, and the media to increase transparency, expose and eliminate wasteful and corrupt subsidies, earmarks, and corporate welfare, and hold decision makers accountable.
The purpose of TRAC is to provide the American people — and institutions of oversight such as Congress, news organizations, public interest groups, businesses, scholars and lawyers — with comprehensive information about staffing, spending, and enforcement activities of the federal government. On a day-to-day basis, what are the agencies and prosecutors actually doing? Who are their employees and what are they paid? What do agency actions indicate about the priorities and practices of government? How do the activities of an agency or prosecutor in one community compare with those in a neighboring one or the nation as a whole? How have these activities changed over time? How does the record of one administration compare with the next? When the head of an agency or a district administrator changed, were there observable differences in actual enforcement priorities? When a new law was enacted or amended, what impact did it have on agency activities?
An essential step in the process of providing this information to the public is TRAC’s systematic and informed use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Regulations.gov is your online source for U.S. government regulations from nearly 300 federal agencies. Search for a regulation such as a proposed rule, final rule or Federal Register (FR) notice, submit a comment, or submit an application, petition or adjudication document.
Also see the electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) for the complete publication of all active federal regulations.
If you need to find people, I like to use Intelius. Easy to use, up to date, inexpensive (Pay As You Go option). Ranked among the top 100 commerce sites on the Internet, Intelius offers products and services that include basic people search, criminal and sex offender background checks, property records search, list management and comprehensive HR background checks.
TVEyes makes TV and radio broadcasts searchable by keyword, phrase or topic – just as you would use a search engine for text. TVEyes Media Monitoring Suite is a subscription-based product used by PR professionals, Fortune 500 companies, Political Campaigns, Government Agencies, and anyone who needs to know what is being broadcast on TV and radio in real-time.
C-Span maintains a vast library of videos in the public domain, from politicians, think tanks, advocacy organizations, authors, and more. Simply go to the Video Library section of the site and use their search mechanism to drill down to the person, group or topic for which you’re searching. You can also download Podcasts of some of C-Span’s other coverage. While you’re at it, take a look at the entire Resources section of the website, as it is chock full of helpful info to make your research tasks easier.
Need to lookup an IP address? How about a domain name? Need to know who registered a particular website or email address? Domain Tools has several lookup methods to help in your search.
Judicial Watch is the nation’s leading expert in forcing the release of government documents into the public domain. In its first ten years, Judicial Watch filed more than 400 open records requests, leading to the release of millions of pages of government documents. In addition to educating the public about the activities of public officials, often these documents bolster Judicial Watch’s litigation or point to new scandals that require investigation. [RIGHT Leaning]
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials — regardless of party affiliation — who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach. [LEFT Leaning]
Also view pending FOIA requests from CREW.
The SEC’s EDGAR database provides free public access to corporate information, allowing you to quickly research a company’s financial information and operations by reviewing registration statements, prospectuses and periodic reports filed on Forms 10-K and 10-Q. You also can find information about recent corporate events reported on Form 8-K but that a company does not have to disclose to investors.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts, and the PACER Case Locator via the Internet. PACER is provided by the federal Judiciary in keeping with its commitment to providing public access to court information via a centralized service.
NCSC is the organization courts turn to for authoritative knowledge and information, because its efforts are directed by collaborative work with the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, and other associations of judicial leaders.
The following link offers a table of contents into individual state resources:
Resources from Dept of Justice and a citizen handbook from Congress on how to submit a Freedom of Information Act request.
When you need to find those old tweets, Snapbird can help.
Topsy is also a powerful tool for social media searches.
Company Research Resources
Dun & Bradstreet
Real-time national debt of the United States.
Using Advanced Search Syntax (Google)
There’s a much better way to search and focus in on exactly the results you need if you know your syntax. Quotation marks are your friend on Google…
Internet Archive [WayBackMachine]
Screen Capture Software: Hypersnap DX (from Hyperionics)
When you need to capture something before it gets scrubbed, Hypersnap will take a screen shot. Even has auto-scrolling capability for those extra long web pages.