A bright romp through the world of opposition political research.
Since 1993, former journalists Huffman (Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History, 2009, etc.) and Rejebian have worked in “oppo,” gathering damaging information on political candidates and their opponents in local, state and national elections. “Everything we cite in our reports must be thorough, honest, accurate and, as we can’t stress enough, documented,” they write. How clients use the information is a different story. In this revealing, anecdote-filled account, the authors describe a year of investigations that took them from front porches to courthouses to presidential libraries in search of “political intel.” We see them reviewing municipal records under guard, pitching prospective clients, fending off difficult people, fielding suspicious phone calls and using ingenious methods to deal with officious government clerks. No one knows quite what to make of them (“Who did you say you’re with?”), and they vacillate privately over their own identity, seeing themselves on one hand as journalists without bylines and on the other as “part investigator, part critic, part paid informant.” In fact, they are partners in the political research firm Huffman & Rejebian, part of a multimillion-dollar industry that is “a crucial underpinning” of American politics. Ironically, the authors are not deeply political people; they express disgust at the nastiness of American politics and amazement at the undocumented claims some candidates will make to get elected. They refuse to rely solely on online sources (often inaccurate or incomplete) and instead beat a path by foot to the doors of ex-wives and others in the know. They say many candidates don’t know what’s in their own record and don’t want to. One prospective candidate, confronted with an incident report about the beating he gave his girlfriend at an airport, dropped his plans to run.
A good book for anyone who has wondered how scandalous past behavior makes its way into campaign headlines.