in Houston, Texas
Investigative reporting links
Monday, May 28, 2012, 10:59AM CST
By Steve Miller

Investigative Reporting: Breaking Stories That Force Change

Investigative journalist Steve Miller



The FOIA letter generator

Head here and print out the letter, or copy and paste to create your own template for filing an open records request to any government body in Michigan.

Follow the Money

This site allows you to see how money flows through your state. Put your zip code in the box to the left and it will pull up your local candidates, a synopsis of their financing, and a series of links that lead you to specific campaign donations. An eye opener here is the amount of special interest money taken in by officeholders. Site also will track donors by name. This is the motherlode in terms of campaign financing.

Michigan Campaign Finance Network

We have our own version of Follow the Money as well, but it can also provide items like the Michigan Supreme Court campaign finance summary by election going back to 1984. It will also pop up with its own data crunching at times.

State of Michigan, campaign finance database,1607,7-127-1633_8723_8751---,00.html

This is for all things campaign finance related in Michigan. You can get the filings for ballot measures past and present, a full breakdown of contributions and expenditures and look up the doings of any political action committee you love or hate. Remember that transparency is great and that what you do will also be transparent, as it should be.  Look yourself up in here.

Access My Gov

Ever wondered how much your county/township/city is taking in on taxes this year versus last? Dig into this database. In Ingham County, long term dropped 4 percent between 2006 and 2009.  I learned that here. You can compare your entity with any other in the state when you get in there and move things around. Ingham County expenditures on health and welfare are exactly the same percentage of overall spend as Kent County. Also found that in here.

Michigan’s Auditor General

A state of Michigan audit of the state’s Bureau of Elections found that 48 inmates voted 52 times between 2008 and 2011, with 8 of them casting absentee ballots and the rest voting in-person.
This comes from the state’s auditor general site and from a review of the state’s qualified voter file. This is a site where quite a few bodies are buried, many of them not even embalmed. Right this minute, there are unreported findings on the state’s sex offender registry, the accuracy of prisoner release dates, the emergency 9-1-1 fund -

IRS, Find out who Registers to put out Issue Ads

Two steps from here you will have the registration and donors of all Michigan 527s, or these groups that form to influence elections. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are the example of a big news grabbing 527. EMILY’s List is another. This can be a simple search by state, or you can take it all the way down to zip code.

Family ties and earmarks

LegisStorm came out with its Family Ties report, which just keeps on giving. It’s a collection of all the campaign money spent by Congress on family members. The earmarks database covers 2009-2011 and it’s the best out there. It will search all, solo and joint earmarks and even provide a list of those requesting a certain appropriation.  LegisStorm also gives salaries of staffers for each lawmaker, although there is a pay element at some point for something you may want. That’s your call. We frown on any data collector that wants to charge the public for its own information. But the latest lobby contracts? Yea, might be worth it.

KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
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