- Type the web address into your Internet browser: www.fec.gov.
- Click on the “Campaign Finance Reports and Data” link on the left-hand column.
- Click on “Search Campaign Finance Data.”
- Click on “Candidate PAC and Party Summaries.”
- Type “Microsoft” into the name field.
- Click on MICROSOFT CORPORATION POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE.
- Click on “Individual Contributions.” Voila! The search engine pulls up 611 individual contributions for just the 2000/2001 election cycle.
- Drill down by entering the first name listed, “Abrash, Michael”, into the Google search engine. You quickly learn Michael was one of the developers of “Quake” ó a god in the computer game world. He was hired by Microsoft to work on Xbox, Microsoft’s answer to the Atari video game console.
- Skip-trace his name in the Merlin Flat Rate database (see my previous article on skip-tracing). Bingo. You pull up Michael’s unlisted phone number and address in Plano, Texas.
Michael Abrash is an example of someone who is easy to background once you have a name. But you wouldn’t necessarily come across him without it. Often, if you don’t have the name or precise title of an executive or senior technologist, you can’t find them in Google because you pull up too many records.
Try typing in “Microsoft” and “SDE Lead” (Michael’s title) in Google, and watch your head explode. But the really neat thing about the FEC database is it not only gives you the names of employees, it also gives you the titles as well.
When starting a search, ask yourself what government agency has dealings with that business or with individuals working there, then check to see if the data exists online. The FEC is a great place to start.
The nice thing about checking government records is that so many of them exist. Just think about the points of contact any individual has with government: voter registration, driver’s licenses, divorce court, the IRS. At each of those points of contact exists a record ó the famed bureaucratic red tape about which everyone complains. Only this time, don’t complain! The information can be used to a recruiter’s advantage.