IFAS | Freedom Writer | October/November/December 1993 | review.html

The Opposition Research Handbook

THE OPPOSITION RESEARCH HANDBOOK: A Guide to Political Investigations by Larry Zilliox Jr. Investigative Research Specialists. 64 pages plus appendix.

The Opposition Research Handbook begins with a friendly warning: although the skills needed to do opposition research need to be developed through practice, one should not choose a friend or relative as a subject because "you will find things you d id not want to know." The remainder of this book spells out clearly and concisely exactly how a novice investigator would go through the various processes of gathering information. The handbook is aimed toward members of issue-oriented grassroots organiza tions and uses as its example the investigating of a political candidate. The techniques presented, however, can be used to investigate any individual or corporation.

The handbook itself is divided up into nine broad categories covering everything from how to organize an investigation and search for information, through the variety of research methods and resources available. The handbook also contains an extensive app endix including checklists for tracking the information as it is gathered, directories for many state and federal court systems, a recommended reading list, and much more.

The book ranges from the basics of how one should begin an investigation (always remember two questions: Is it true? How can it be used to find out more?), through some unusual, or at least uncommon, ways of finding out certain information (if the candida te has a Ph.D., get a copy of his or her dissertation). In addition, the handbook contains a wide variety of hard facts, such as the names of resources and the exact amount that their materials would cost; helpful hints, such as how to deal with uncoopera tive government clerks, among others; and research fundamentals, such as following a paper trail until finding the person who did not profit he or she may be a valuable source.

This handbook will be a valuable resource, particularly for those researching the Religious Right, because all of the techniques mentioned can be used for stealth candidates and others. (In fact, one of the examples given is how to do research on someone who went to a Bible college.) The Opposition Research Handbook, in addition to being a well-organized wealth of information, is also fun to read. The key to its success, for the author and especially the reader/user, is its simplicity.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.