James Madison once said that “a popular government without information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” The challenge Madison noted two centuries ago is at the same time more and less complex today than ever before. While the amount of information necessary both to govern well and to be a responsible citizen is vastly greater today, the technical means of acquiring and disseminating vital information has improved in ways Madison could not have imagined.
This guide attempts to provide concrete answers to questions such as:
- What is an accessible government record?
- Who has the right of access to government record?
- How can one learn of the time, place and subject of public meetings?
- How much are public officials paid?
- What is an official’s net worth?
- Who contributes to his campaign and in what amounts?
- How can an individual or organization access federal, state, and local governmental records?
Please remember: while we hope to bring you the most accurate and up to date information possible, professional legal advice should be sought in all cases. While the Center for Constitutional Rights does not have the capacity to provide individual criminal representation, your state bar associations should be able to make attorney referrals, including to those who provide pro-bono services.