Two mysterious men pull up to the courthouse and head to the public records office. They're strangers, and they ask a lot of strange questions like, "I'd like to look at Mayor John Doe's property deeds." Or, "I want to see Congressman Smith's voting records."
They're not from the FBI. They're not even G-Men. They're Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian, two former investigative journalists who sift through the muck to conduct opposition research on political candidates. Their tales of hitting the road and poking noses into a politician's past are documented in their book, We're With Nobody.
The title is their stock answer when city hall clerks ask what organization they represent. But Huffman and Rejebian aren't just researching the opposition.
"When we're doing these reports, we have to research our candidate with the same vigor as we do his or her opponent," Rejebian tells Jackie Lyden, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. "So if we get caught up in that passion of politics that most people get caught up in, we get a stilted report."
To get those facts, they have to deal with testy courthouse clerks, former spouses, old employers — not always the most agreeable sources. Over the years, Rejebian and Huffman have learned to "outlast" everyone else to find the same information.
They say their investigative reports test a candidate's fitness to lead, meaning they have come across plenty of unsavory details.
"You find a guy who beat up his girlfriend or a guy who threw a pipe bomb at the homecoming float when he was in high school, which unfortunately turned out to be our guy," Huffman says.
Not all of their research reveals such dramatic stories, and that's fine, says Rejebian.
"Our job is document and to give factual information to our campaigns," he says. "Not to run a smear campaign."
Objectiveness aside, they both admit it's a pretty fun gig.
"It's the best job, I'm telling you, and it's a great road trip," Rejebian says.
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