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Research Tools and Techniques: Refining Your Online and Offline Searches, 1-day course in Washington, DC

Research Tools and Techniques: Refining Your Online and Offline Searches
Research Workshop: Washington Essentials
1-day course

tool box
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This course helps anyone responsible for research at any Washington-area organization, whether an agency, association, business, elected official or nonprofit. It is designed for anyone who wants to improve their online and offline searches.

What to do when you’re told, “Find out about this!”

Research is a fundamental job requirement of many jobs, and this research skills course can help you perform your work more efficiently and more effectively, contributing to better job reviews and promotion possibilities.

Portable Wi-Fi Classroom TMYou will have a “hands-on” opportunity to follow our faculty and navigate the Internet with one of our laptop computers (first 20 registrants to sign in at program). Or, bring your own Wi-Fi equipped laptop and take advantage of our Real World Research Skills, 2nd Edition by Peggy GarvinPortable Wi-Fi ClassroomTM to enhance your learning.

Approved for CEUs from George Mason University
Approved for .6 CEUs from George Mason University.

December 15, 2010, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Where: Washington, DC

Course materials include the Training Edition of Real World Research Skills Second Edition: An Introduction to Factual, International, Judicial, Legislative, and Regulatory Research, by Peggy Garvin

More details and secure online registration:

This course and any combination of its topics can be tailored for custom on-site presentation at your location.

Police and Prosecutors Don’t Lie – Do They?

Police in Okaloosa County, Florida wrongly arrest and imprison a man for three days after mistaking his heart medication for cocaine. One of those notorious field tests, which have mistaken everything from shampoo to tea to soy milk to chocolate to billiards chalk for illicit drugs, somehow came back positive on George Funti’s nitroglycerin. But that isn’t even where it gets weird. The medication was sent to a crime lab for further testing, which determined in March it was not cocaine. But Funti was still arrested and jailed a month later. He was then kept in a cell for three days. He was also denied the bottle of nitroglycerin he was carrying when he was arested, which he says the arresting deputies confiscated, believing it too was cocaine.

Police Professionalism Roundup,” by Radley Balko, Hit and Run, September 23, 2010

Hungry Piglets
Creative Commons License photo credit: Schmeegan

Being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) can cost a motorist thousands of dollars in court fines, insurance costs and attorneys’ fees. At least 79 accused drivers were notified last Friday that the police officer that charged them with drunk driving had likely falsified at least one piece of evidence. Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully threw out the cases after an investigation into the conduct of Sacramento Police Officer Brandon Mullock, 24.

Scully opened the inquiry into Mullock’s conduct after a deputy district attorney preparing a DUI case for trial watched a dashcam arrest video and noticed that the raw footage differed substantially from Mullock’s written account of the incident in a police report. The case was dropped in June.

California: Cop Accused of Faking DUI Reports, TTAC, September 23, 2010

special price today
Creative Commons License photo credit: TheTruthAbout…

A federal prosecutor’s misconduct tilted the scales of justice against Antonio Lyons, an Orlando businessman. Lyons served three years in prison before his attorney discovered statements from a witness that differed from the testimony given at trial. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Prosecutorial Misconduct,” by David Rittgers, Cato@Liberty, September 23, 2010

A significant investigation by USA Today was revealed yesterday, concluding that misconduct happens at the Department of Justice. As my knees wobbled, I grabbed the arm of my chair to prevent my falling on the ground in shock, trying desperately to catch my breath. Misconduct? Department of Justice? Really?

Why do they call it the Department of Justice? Because the Department of Convictions doesn’t sound as good. It’s not as if any federal prosecutor has ever celebrated an acquittal as “justice being done,” so that it comes as a surprise that prosecutors push the envelope is, well, a surprise.

The gist of the article is that there is a pattern of misconduct at the Department of Justice. Nathan Burney, a former prosecutor, deals with the excuses.
. . .
And yet judges, the putative neutrals in an adversary system, turn a blind eye to allegations, even proof, of misconduct in all but the most flagrant and undeniable of cases, or those involving the most politically or economically powerful.
. . .
Burney, the former prosecutor, agrees:

The most insightful explanation here is the observation that the end justifies the means. Breaking the rules is fine if, at the end of the day, it ensures that the criminal gets convicted.

Sadly, few member of the public would disagree with this, since the guilty are bad and deserve whatever happens to them. Prosecutors agree. Cops and Agents agree. Judges agree. The public agrees. No harm, no foul, as determined by the outcome.

No one, myself included, wants to discourage a newspaper, even one as white bread as USA Today, from doing an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct. But such efforts come along so seldom that such a pale, superficial one as this does little to clean up the mess, and covers up the culpability of other cogs in the wheels of justice.

Judges have found prosecutorial misconduct in 201 cases. Judges have found Brady disclosure failures in 86 cases. There has been a grand total of one federal prosecutor disciplined.

Discovering The Obvious: Prosecutors Engage In Misconduct,” Simple Justice, September 24, 2010

Prosecutors’ conduct can tip justice scales,” USA Today, September 22, 2010

Also see The Innocence Project and 10 Rules for Dealing with Police.

A free download of TheCapitol.Net’s Pocket Constitution is available on Scribd.

Free Print Copy of the Pocket Constitution from TheCapitol.Net. Available while supply lasts.

Also see our FREE pocket edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

“Mexico’s drug war” – One of the predictable results of prohibition

A small army of bloggers and tweeters is filling the gaps left by traditional media in Mexico that are increasingly limiting their coverage of the country’s drug wars because of pressure from the cartels.

“Shots fired by the river, unknown number of dead,” read one recent tweet on a busy feed from the northern border city of Reynosa, #Reynosafollow. “Organized crime blockade on San Fernando road lifted,” said another. “Just saw police officers telling a group of narcos about the positions of navy checkpoints,” ran a third.

Nothing of this kind appeared in the city’s papers which, along with most media outlets in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas, have become better known for what they do not publish than for what they do.

Creative Commons License photo credit: ttarasiuk

Tamaulipas is one of the most intense battlegrounds of the drug wars being fought in Mexico between the federal forces and at least seven cartels.

. . .

El Blog del Narco was set up in March and posts the information, photographs and videos it receives unedited and without comment.

The result is a catalogue of horror absent even from the national press, which still covers the violence from the relative safety of its headquarters in the capital.

Offerings last week included a video of the interrogation and execution of four alleged hit men, photographs of a car found in a Pacific coast resort with two heads on the roof – the headless bodies were on the back seat – and the army’s discovery of a torture house about an hour’s drive from Mexico City. Much of the material comes from the cartels themselves, but in an email interview with the Guardian, the anonymous administrator insisted he has no direct relationship with them.

“We just publish the information,” he wrote, adding that the blog sometimes receives 4m visits a week.

“Blog del Narco grew because the media and the government are trying to pretend that nothing is happening in Mexico.”

Twitter feeds and blogs tell hidden story of Mexico’s drug wars,” by Jo Tuckman, The Guardian, September 26, 2010

El Blog del NarcoWARNING – Graphic photos and video


The Basics of Writing an Effective Press Release

The press release is frequently used as an important tool in public relations. The main goal of a press release is to persuade reporters to do a story on an issue that is important to you. A press release is even more important today than in the past because of the increased use of web sites. A press release provides a clear, concise record of events, announcements and policy positions. Consequently, there are usually two audiences for any press release; the general public and reporters. Both audiences must be kept in mind when crafting an effective press release.

Realm of Relaxation
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The most common audience for any press release is comprised by reporters. A well written press release allows reporters to quickly review information; an essential key to their job. Within the first two sentences the press release should tell reporters precisely why they should pursue that story. Of utmost importance are the headline and the lead. The headline of a press release should not be longer than ten words and should contain buzzwords that will grab the attention of the reader. Ultimately, the purpose of the headline is to whet the appetite of the reader, or in this case the reporter, and encourage them to read the entire release and finally write a story on it.

A press release lead is much like a lead in a newspaper. The summary lead should condense the most important information in the story. In most cases, the lead should not be longer than two sentences and certainly no longer than four sentences. You can use the lead to effectively summarize the overall idea of the release.

The story and your goals will likely determine what will come next in the release. Generally, it’s a good idea to Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitchinclude a quote within the second paragraph of the press release, particularly if the press release involves agencies, organizations, elected leaders or high-profile leaders. Look for quotes which convey emotion or opinion to gain the most feeling. This will help to improve your chances of reporters picking it up for a story. A concluding quote can also be used in the final paragraph.

An effective release should be restricted to a single page; with only two pages being dedicated to heavier subjects. Finally, always make sure you include a relevant URL and “#” or “–end–” centered at the bottom of the page to conclude the press release. For more guidelines on drafting an effective press release, consider our Media Relations for Public Affairs Professionals workshop.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitch, Section 2.4 Press Release.

For more information about media training from TheCapitol.Net, see these resources:

We No Speak Americano – Hand Dance

Hat tip Dean’s World

Hand dancers Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding are a YouTube hit,” Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2010

Irish dance takes a leap into the future,” Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 27 2010

Up & Over It, Irish Dancers Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding

FREE Pocket Constitution

The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Amendments to the Constitution, all in a handy pocket-sized booklet. Single copies are FREE.

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A free download of TheCapitol.Net’s Pocket Constitution is available on Scribd.

Free Print Copy of TheCapitol.Net’s Pocket Constitution:

  • Free copy with every book order and every audio CD order from TheCapitol.Net’s web site.
  • Single copies of this Pocket Constitution are available at no charge by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with first class postage for two (2) ounces to: TheCapitol.Net, Pocket Constitution, PO Box 25706, Alexandria, VA 22313-5706. Requests with insufficient postage will be returned or destroyed. Only 1 copy per request.
  • Social Studies and Government Teachers: You can combine up to 35 of your students’ separate SASEs (each SASE must have first class postage for two (2) ounces attached) into one large envelope that you mail to us for free copies for your Pocket Constitution from TheCapitol.Netstudents. Enclose a note with your name, name of your school, course taught, grade, and school address. Requests with no school info or insufficient postage will be returned or destroyed.
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  • Available while supply lasts.

Also see the FREE pocket edition of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense from TheCapitol.Net.


The President’s Role in the Passage of Legislation

In order for any piece of legislation to be passed, both chambers of Congress must first pass legislation that is completely identical. If there are any changes made to the proposed legislation in either chamber, those changes must be reconciled before a final version can be passed and presented to the President for approval. One of the most commonly misunderstood matters regarding the passage of legislation is that the President is required to sign a bill in order for it to become enacted. This is not the case and it is not required by the Constitution. In most instances, when the President approves of a bill, it will be signed. In other instances, a bill can actually become a law even if the President does not sign it. Provided that the President does not return the bill to Congress with his/her objections within a matter of ten days, the bill will become law. (Article. I. Section. 7. of the US Constitution.)

Pres. Obama Signs Health Care Bill

The president may choose to object to a bill through the veto process. The bill will then be returned to Congress. In this type of situation, each separate chamber of Congress can make an attempt to override the veto but they must have a 2/3 vote in order to accomplish that outcome. Another option would be for the bill to be amended in order to gain Presidential approval.

There is also yet another option that is known as the pocket veto. This method allows the President to offer an objection to a proposed bill without taking any formal veto measures. This type of situation usually occurs when a formal veto is prevented by Congress when it adjourns within ten days, thus preventing the President from either acting upon legislation or vetoing it. A bill will actually become law on the date that it is either passed over the veto of a president or on the date that it is signed by the President. The only exception to this situation would be if a bill provides a specific effective date that is different from the passage date.

Counting of the ten day period does not include Sundays. Counting will begin at midnight on the day that the Presidential-Congressional Relations: Rivals Sharing PowerPresident receives a measure. In the even the President wishes to approve it, he will sign it, date it and write Approved at the top; although he is only required by the Constitution to sign it.

While the process of a bill actually becoming law can be somewhat intricate and involved, it is important to have a clear and solid understanding of that process, particularly if you are to be involved in the process by advocating for or against the legislation. Our Advanced Legislative Strategies is excellent start to assisting you in understanding how to be an effective advocate.

Source: Section 8.290 Presidential Action on Enacted Measures, from Congressional Deskbook: The Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Congress, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider

For detailed information about the legislative process, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:


  • Summary of Bills Vetoed, 1789-present – United States Senate
  • “The Presidential Veto and Congressional Procedure,” CRS Report for Congress RS21750 (5-page PDF PDF )
  • “Veto Override Procedure in the House and Senate,” CRS Report for Congress RS22654 (7-page PDF PDF )
  • “Regular Vetoes and Pocket Vetoes: An Overview,” CRS Report for Congress RS22188 (9-page PDF PDF )

Persuading Congress: Candid Advice for Executives

Persuading Congress: How to Spend Less and Get More from Congress: Candid Advice for Executives

By Joseph Gibson

Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, is a a practical book, packed with wisdom and experience. For Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibsonless than the cost of a cab ride to the airport, you can learn how to stop wasting your time when you visit Washington.

What happens in Congress affects all of our lives and extends into every corner of the economy. Because so much is at stake there, businesses and other interest groups spend billions of dollars each year trying to influence legislation.

Yet, most of these efforts are doomed to futility from the outset. Only a small percentage of the bills introduced in Congress actually become law, and most interested parties do not fully understand why those few bills succeed. More importantly, how to get Congress to do what they want remains a mystery to them.

This book will help you understand Congress. Written from the perspective of one who has helped put a lot of bills on the president’s desk and helped stop a lot more, this book explains in everyday terms why Congress behaves as it does. Then it shows you how you can best deploy whatever resources you have to move Congress in your direction.

Because you have limited time, this book sticks to the basics and its chapters are short so that it can be digested rapidly.

For more information, see

Political Action Committees (PACs)–What you Need to Know

One of the most common methods for raising money for political parties or candidates is through the use of a political action committee or PAC. While political action committees are often associated with candidates they can be used in correlation with many types of organizations, such as unions and businesses. In addition, a political action committee can also be created in a manner that is not affiliated with any entity.

8-bit cookies - who wants to beta test?
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Forming a political action committee is an additional way to get involved in politics and advocating for candidates who support causes that are important to you. While political action committees are a popular method for political fundraising, there are very specific guidelines that apply to the formation and management of PACs.

When starting a political action committee, it is imperative for there to be a purpose behind the PAC. Identifying a purpose for the PAC when it is first established will make it much easier for it to be promoted for the purposes of fundraising. The PAC should also have a name that is related to the purpose for which it is founded, making it much easier for potential donors to understand the purpose of the PAC.

One of the most important things about a PAC is that it must be registered with the Federal Election Commission within ten days of starting the PAC. There is an exception for a PAC that is not connected; in that case, the political action committee is not required to register until such time as $1,000 has been distributed within a single calendar year for the purpose of funding a federal election campaign.

When establishing a PAC, it is critical for a treasurer to be named at the time of inception. PACs In A Nutshell

Comprehensive reports must be provided by all political action committees to the Federal Election Commission. This is crucial because specific guidelines apply regarding the regulation of how much money can be donated by a PAC to a campaign.

Source: Section 4.10 Congress as an Open Institution, in Congressional Deskbook: The Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Congress, by Michael L. Koempel and Judy Schneider

For more information about PACs, see these Capitol Learning Audio Courses: PAC Management: Advanced PAC Strategy, and PACs in a Nutshell: Political Action Committee Basics.

For detailed information about the legislative process, see These resources from TheCapitol.Net:

Becoming More Effective by Accurately Reading Proposed Legislation

Legislation is often at the heart of much of what takes place on Capitol Hill. Whether you are testifying or you would like to voice your support or concern for a particular piece of legislation it is important to make sure you read a proposed piece of legislation. Doing so will allow you to present a more informed and educated proposal.

It's All A Blur
Creative Commons License photo credit: Bruce W Martin II

The most common type of legislation is the bill. Legislation that takes the form of a bill is assigned a bill number that is preceded by a “H.R.” in the House and an “S.” in the Senate. The number that is assigned at the time the legislation is introduced relates to the order in which it was introduced. Remember: a bill can only become a law when it is passed with precisely the same language in both houses of Congress and then is either signed by the President or passed over his veto.

In reading a bill, you will also find the sponsor of the legislation located on the bill as well as the title of the bill, although not all pieces of legislation always have a title. Senate and house measures may often have a number of co-sponsors along with the member who actually proposed the legislation.

Other important information included is the date the bill was introduced. You will also find a date that is the anticipated date the bill will be passed. Of course, this is simply an estimate which can certainly vary. Even though the bill may not actually pass by the date that is estimated, this is important information as it can tell you whether the legislation is on a fast track to be passed.

Within the body of the bill you will find a summary of the major area or issue that the bill is intended to address. While the summary of the bill will give you a good idea of what the bill is about, in order to learn specifics of the bill you will need to read the body of the bill. This will include specific information regarding definitions, requirements, dates, provisions and any potential consequences that may occur as a result of the legislation.

TheCapitol.Net offers several courses that can help you to more effectively research legislation, including How to Find, Track, and Monitor Congressional Documents: Going Beyond Thomas.

For more information about the different types of bills, see Section 8.10, Types of Measures, in Congressional Deskbook, by Micheal Koempel and Judy Schneider.

For detailed information about the legislative process, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net: