Government Files — The Source That Keeps on Giving….

 

There are many, many types of information available from government agencies. Many can be used to track people, understand connections between people and entities, or determine compliance with laws and regulations. Almost every government record will contain vital information such as names or addresses. Some of these resources are used by journalists and opposition researchers, but many are overlooked. This list is not meant to be comprehensive, but is intended to get you to think about what information might be available and how you could use it in your research.

  • Annual reports
  • Appointment calendars
  • Audit reports
  • Building, occupancy and other permits
  • Budgets
  • Call records of government officials who use publicly-provided cell phones or calling cards
  • Deeds, mortgage information and liens
  • Delinquency records from taxes to parking tickets
  • Departmental reports
  • Disclosure forms
  • Docket pages
  • FBI files on people who have died
  • Financial information on incomes, expenditures and payees
  • Flight logs of government aircraft and repair information

 

  • Franchise tax reports
  • Government property
  • Government employees and salary information, including overtime
  • Health and other inspection records
  • Legal opinions and case records and filings
  • Licenses
  • Meeting records
  • Mileage and gas records
  • Non-profit tax reports
  • Official documents, or lists of documents, filed in archives
  • Perquisites
  • Phone directories and logs
  • Police incident logs
  • Political campaign contribution records and databases
  • Public comment letters on proposed legislation
  • Tax record and liens
  • Transcripts

Don’t expect anyone in government to turn over information the first time you ask. They may, or they may not. There is a high likelihood you will have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA request if you want to be nice; FOIA demand when nice doesn’t work) or an Open Records Act form. While journalists are often thought of as the biggest users of these demands almost any member of the public can use the FOIA to ferret information. More information on FOIA and open records act cases and techniques is available at:

Copyright Mark Monday 2018 Text from the next edition of What You Don’t Know

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