Ever wonder why politicians keep getting caught up in scandals? Does the entire country go around groping subordinates at parties and giving other people's money to their friends, and the only reason we don't hear about it is because they haven't been elected to anything?
No. Politics is different. For better or worse, the behavior of politicians is influenced by a unique and volatile combination of personal ambition and public accountability. It takes them places most of us will never go.
We're political opposition researchers. Our job is to find out everything there is to know about candidates for elected office, from congressional representatives down to local school boards. Campaigns hire us to dig up the dirt on their opponents, but also on their own candidates, so they'll know how they could be attacked. We get to see everyone naked, for better or worse. We wrote a book about it: "We're With Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics" [William Morrow Paperbacks, $15.99].
Sometimes we discover a potential bombshell; other times it's a minor, telling detail. The point of our research is to answer the question: "Do you really want this person to lead you?" We often find candidates who are in it for all the right reasons, for whom the answer is a resounding Yes. Then there are the others. To help you figure out who is who and what is what, we offer the following handy checklist of potential problem areas.