Take a look at the political scene, from the local level to national campaigns, and it’s not long before you hear about a private investigator getting involved. From tracking elected officials with GPS to investigating shady finances, it seems like PIs are getting a ton of political-oriented jobs these days. It’s not surprising if an ambitious PI wonders, “Should I aim for these kinds of jobs?”
Of course, political investigations come with underlying tensions and considerations that most other PI jobs don’t have. But that shouldn’t dissuade you if you’re ready for the work. Here’s what you should know before working with political clients.
Political Investigations Can’t Involve Any Type of Bias
This is a common concern, and it’s important to get it out of the way first. Yes, you absolutely can work political jobs no matter what your own political stance is — but you can’t let that affect your work. Keeping your personal politics out of the job is mandatory. Otherwise, your performance could struggle, you may miss valuable opportunities, and the risk of falling into legal or ethical quandaries becomes higher.
Fortunately, PIs tend to have a lot of experience separating their personal feelings from emotionally charged cases. This same experience applies to political work. If you don’t feel it’s possible for you to work with any particular political group because of your own views, it may not be the right field for you.
Politics Offers a Surprising Number of Opportunities for PIs
Does politics really have so many opportunities for private investigators? Several decades ago, work was relatively rare outside of cities and political hot zones. Today, there are many more opportunities, with a range of needs that match well with traditional PI services. You can expect to see work, including:
- Confirming candidate information, history, and background as reported
- Investigating potential scandals, legal issues, or general dirt on candidates as part of opposition research
- Helping campaigns or political offices protect against hacking, data breaches, and cyber attacks
- Collecting evidence related to elections, voter fraud, or election fraud
- Tracking down the funding behind specific candidates or political movements
Jobs like these don’t just apply to high-level candidates, politicians, and organizations, there’s also growing demand for investigative services in local politics, whether it’s helping audit a sheriff department’s spending habits or investigating the mayor for a past business deal.
PIs Should Stay Focused on Legal, Ethical Services
Politics often has a reputation as a dirty business and some private investigators may be particularly sensitive to that reputation affecting their other work. If that’s true, there are still many opportunities grounded in more ethical approaches than the services we listed above. If you want to stay out of the fray, there are jobs like:
- Investigating lobbying to ensure all lobbying meets ethical and legal requirements
- Confirming whistleblower allegations about corruption, wrongdoing, or similar problems
- Providing third-party confirmation of specific financial, policy, or personal claims that help the public trust the political process and find accurate, up-to-date information
There’s No Need to Directly Interact with Politicians
If contacting politicians directly makes you a little nervous or concerned about some of the points mentioned above, don’t worry about it. You’re very unlikely to ever deal with a political candidate or someone in office. On the contrary, they generally want to distance themselves from any investigations. Instead, you’ll be contacted by an attorney, a campaign organization, or a political interest group.
There Can Be Additional Risks with High-Profile Work
Remember that politics is more public work. There will be a lot of people interested in the results of your investigation, many more than would care about the average remote work compliance or missing dependent situation. Add in how politics makes emotions run high, and this kind of work does involve more risks.
For one, you’re more likely to be sued in an effort to stop an investigation by an opposing political organization. Make sure your insurance is updated and ready to cover this possibility. You may also be more likely to receive threats, so it is advisable to assess your personal and office security. Conducting regular checks can help improve safety and implement best practices to ensure protection of yourself and your data.
Political work may be a valuable source of jobs in your area, as long as you excel at keeping your professional life separate from your own political leanings. Again, PIs should always consider the ethics of a job, and avoid doing anything that breaks the law. There are many opportunities for more ethical work in the political sphere, or if you have experience getting your hands (legally) dirty, there are a lot of other ways to dig in as well.
One final bit of advice: If you want to add political work to your services, advertise directly and proactively for it. This is a growing field of investigative work, and there are PIs out there like Larry Williams from New Orleans, who are sending all political candidate campaigns flyers advertising their services. Not a bad idea if you want results!