Peter Overby

As NPR's correspondent covering campaign finance and lobbying, Peter Overby totes around a business card that reads Power, Money & Influence Correspondent. Some of his lobbyist sources call it the best job title in Washington.

Overby was awarded an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia silver baton for his coverage of the 2000 campaign and the 2001 Senate vote to tighten the rules on campaign finance. The citation said his reporting "set the bar" for the beat.

In 2008, he teamed up with the Center for Investigative Reporting on the Secret Money Project, an extended multimedia investigation of outside-money groups in federal elections.

Joining with NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook in 2009, Overby helped to produce Dollar Politics, a multimedia examination of the ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, as Congress considered the health-care overhaul bill. The series went on to win the annual award for excellence in Washington-based reporting given by the Radio and Television Correspondents Association.

Because life is about more than politics, even in Washington, Overby has veered off his beat long enough to do a few other stories, including an appreciation of R&B star Jackie Wilson and a look back at an 1887 shooting in the Capitol, when an angry journalist fatally wounded a congressman-turned-lobbyist.

Before coming to NPR in 1994, Overby was senior editor at Common Cause Magazine, where he shared a 1992 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for magazine writing. His work has appeared in publications ranging from the Congressional Quarterly Guide to Congress and Los Angeles Times to the Utne Reader and Reader's Digest (including the large-print edition).

Overby is a Washington-area native and lives in Northern Virginia with his family.

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It's All Politics
5:48 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

After Tough 2012, Conservative Koch Brothers Regroup

David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, attends an event at The Economic Club of New York last year.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 6:30 pm

The network of political groups headed by conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch spent millions of undisclosed dollars in last year's elections. Now, after failing to help Republicans win the White House or the Senate, the Koch brothers are re-examining the network, its goals and strategies.

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The Two-Way
1:27 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Supreme Court Will Not Hear Campaign Finance Case On Corporate Donations

The Supreme Court denied the petition of businessmen who say the 2010 Citizens United ruling makes it legal for corporations to contribute directly to candidates. The court building is seen here during renovations in December.
Alex Wong Getty Images

The Supreme Court says it won't hear a case that would have let candidates solicit money from corporations. By doing so, the court is reaffirming one strict ban on corporate political money, three years ago after easing other limits in its controversial Citizens United ruling.

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It's All Politics
9:35 am
Sat February 23, 2013

Liberal Watchdog Group: 'Fix The Debt' Movement More Astroturf Than Grassroots

Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 3:03 pm

The liberal watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy says Fix the Debt — a key unit in philanthropist Pete Peterson's corps of organizations to battle the national debt — is a pro-business effort masquerading as a grassroots movement.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, CMD director Lisa Graves called Fix the Debt "an Astroturf supergroup that is exceedingly well funded." The term "Astroturf" refers to groups that appear to be citizen-organized but actually have their roots at consultants' offices inside the Capital Beltway.

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It's All Politics
5:39 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Supreme Court Takes Case That Could Puncture A Key Campaign Cash Limit

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to campaign-finance laws that could open the door to further money in politics beyond what Citizens United achieved.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 6:48 pm

Barely three years after the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United ruling, which liberated corporations to spend freely in elections, the justices say they'll take up another campaign finance case — this time aiming at one of the limits on the "hard money" that goes directly to candidates and party committees.

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It's All Politics
4:39 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

How New Jersey's High-Flying Sen. Menendez Ran Into Turbulence

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, shown in June, has come under scrutiny before, but has never been charged.
Mike Coppola Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 18, 2013 5:12 pm

These should be good times for Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

New Jersey voters re-elected him last fall in a landslide, and he became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few weeks ago. But along the way, Menendez has come under scrutiny by the Senate Ethics Committee and perhaps other government investigators — and certainly the media — for his connections to a longtime friend and generous campaign donor.

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It's All Politics
3:33 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Even Without Earmarks, Tax Breaks And Special Deals Fill Bills

Tourists take photographs in front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 2, the day after Congress passed a bill to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 12:28 pm

Congress likes to say it no longer does earmarks, the provisions that direct federal dollars to serve local interests or campaign supporters. And though that may be true, it's also a fact that targeted provisions are still useful in moving legislation — even critical legislation like the bill that pulled Washington back from the fiscal cliff last month.

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It's All Politics
5:02 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Bloomberg Puts Millions Behind Gun-Control Push

At a news conference last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands with people who have been affected by gun violence.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 22, 2013 8:48 pm

Congress faces a battle over gun laws that could be the biggest in a generation.

Leading the charge for gun rights is the National Rifle Association, with its huge budget and grass-roots operations. On the other side, a new leader has emerged in recent years: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only outspoken on gun control, he has also opened his substantial wallet for the cause.

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It's All Politics
3:24 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Critics Decry Looser Rules For Inauguration Fundraising

Construction was under way on Capitol Hill in November for President Obama's Inauguration Day ceremonies.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 3:27 pm

A week from Monday, President Obama is to take his public oath of office for a second term.

The inauguration will be marked by celebratory balls and other festivities, sponsored by the privately financed Presidential Inaugural Committee. The first Obama inauguration had strict fundraising rules. But this year, the rules have been loosened, and critics wonder what happened to the president's old pledge to change the way Washington works.

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It's All Politics
3:32 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Lobbying Battle Over Hagel Under Way Before Obama's Nod

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., speaks at the White House on Monday after President Obama nominated him to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Sun January 13, 2013 9:03 am

Weeks before President Obama officially nominated Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, the lobbying battle was well under way. The fight might be bigger than any other Cabinet nomination in history as the former Republican senator's friends and foes prepare for modern combat on TV and the Internet.

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It's All Politics
5:10 am
Sun December 30, 2012

Conservatives Invoke NAACP Case In Fight For Secret Donors

Republican strategist Karl Rove, shown at the Republican National Convention in August, is arguing for continued secrecy for the new class of million-dollar political donors.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Sun December 30, 2012 9:27 pm

Here's a question: What do Republican strategist Karl Rove and civil rights icon Rosa Parks have in common?

The answer: a landmark Supreme Court ruling from 1958 protecting the First Amendment rights of dissident groups.

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It's All Politics
6:22 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Financial Ties Bind NRA, Gun Industry

In this photo illustration, a Rock River Arms AR-15 rifle is seen with ammunition.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 10:51 am

Leaders of the National Rifle Association plan to break their weeklong silence Friday and make their first public comments on the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

They say they will be speaking for the NRA's 4 million members. But they will also be speaking for the gun industry, which has close financial ties to the association.

The NRA and the gun industry are reeling after last week's massacre. The primary weapon used — an AR-15-style rifle — is one of the most popular guns in America.

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It's All Politics
3:50 am
Wed December 19, 2012

Single-Issue Solidarity Behind NRA's Clout

A visitor handles a revolver at a Smith & Wesson display during the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits on April 14 at America's Center in St. Louis, Mo.
Whitney Curtis Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 5:44 am

The National Rifle Association says it will hold a major news conference Friday — a week after the school massacre in Connecticut — and that it is "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

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It's All Politics
5:47 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

DeMint And Heritage: Playing Off Each Other's Strengths

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., talks on the phone in his Capitol Hill office on Dec. 6, the day he announced he will resign from the Senate and lead the Heritage Foundation.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 8:44 pm

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., shocked Washington last week when he announced that he will quit the Senate to become president of a think tank. But as the barriers crumble between policy research and partisan advocacy, the building blocks are there for DeMint and the conservative Heritage Foundation to build a powerful operation with political clout.

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It's All Politics
8:39 am
Fri November 23, 2012

How To Oust A Congressman, SuperPAC-Style

U.S. Rep. Joe Baca of California, shown at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, learned the power of superPACs firsthand this year, when he lost for the first time since he was elected in 1999.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Fri November 23, 2012 1:53 pm

After spending millions of dollars in the presidential and Senate campaigns with little to show for it, many superPACs and other outside groups are still tending their wounds. But it's too soon to write off superPACs as a waste of wealthy donors' money.

Consider, for instance, this upset in a congressional race outside Los Angeles.

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It's All Politics
5:52 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Siren: Meet The Man Behind The Curtain

Peter G. Peterson speaks at the Fiscal Summit in Washington, D.C., last year. The event was sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Jason Reed Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon November 19, 2012 8:28 pm

Debate over the long-term debt and the annual deficit has dominated the post-election agenda. Both the White House and Congress want to avert massive budget cuts and tax hikes early next year, a situation popularly called the "fiscal cliff."

The challenge has been brewing for years. But its current prominence owes much to the decades-long lobbying of billionaire Peter G. Peterson and his private foundation.

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It's All Politics
5:08 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Some Early Returns From First Post-Citizens United Election

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 5:15 pm

Political observers are still working through the rubble of the unprecedented $6 billion presidential campaign, but we're getting a steady stream of reaction and analysis.

The liberal advocacy groups U.S. PIRG and Demos have one of the most striking numerical comparisons: 1.4 million to 61.

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It's All Politics
3:25 am
Mon November 12, 2012

With Millions Spent, GOP 'Investors' Saw Little Return Election Night

A supporter of President Barack Obama raises his arms as it is announced that Obama was re-elected during an election night watch party in Chicago.
Jerome Delay AP

Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 5:39 am

A "return on investment" is a concept better known to Wall Street than to Washington. But after President Obama and the Democrats won most of the close elections last week there are questions about the seven- and eight-figure "investments" made by dozens of conservative donors.

During the election season, it was pretty common to hear about donors making "investments" in superPACs and other outside groups, rather than a "political contribution," perhaps because the phrase has a sort of taint to it.

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It's All Politics
5:34 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Outside Groups Spend Big On Elections, But Don't Have Much To Show For It

Karl Rove, former adviser to President George W. Bush, speaks last year in Corpus Christi, Texas. Rove is the chief fundraiser for the biggest outside spender this election season: the twin groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.
Michael Zamora AP

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 5:50 pm

This presidential election attracted $1.5 billion in outside spending — TV ads, robocalls and other political activity by groups created to take advantage of the new rules of campaign finance law.

On the day after the voting, the track record of the groups, most of them conservative, is open to question.

Tuesday night was a rough one for Karl Rove. The GOP guru is the guiding light and chief fundraiser for the biggest outside spender: the twin groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

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It's All Politics
1:31 am
Wed November 7, 2012

Post-'Citizens United' Senate Snapshot: Money Doesn't Guarantee Victory

Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is joined by his wife and daughter in celebrating his Senate victory over Republican George Allen.
Mike Theiler UPI /Landov

Originally published on Wed November 7, 2012 2:17 am

The battle to control the Senate was a proving ground for the new Citizens United politics. Outside groups unleashed heavily funded barrages of attack ads meant to help elect candidates while letting them keep their distance from the nastiness.

In Ohio and Virginia, the tactic failed in rather dramatic ways, as Republicans backed by secretly financed ads failed to beat seemingly vulnerable Democrats.

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It's All Politics
3:27 am
Mon November 5, 2012

Any Way You Describe It, 2012 Campaign Spending Is Historic

Voters participate in early voting Friday in Silver Spring, Md.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 11:07 am

As relentlessly as the candidates have courted voters, they've also shown their love to donors.

A report by the Center for Responsive Politics places the total cost of the 2012 elections at an estimated $6 billion, which would make it the most expensive election in U.S. history

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It's All Politics
5:12 pm
Sat November 3, 2012

With Buses And Billboards, Small-Money Groups Try To Make A Mark

The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama, a small-donor PAC, has launched a bus tour to reach conservative voters in hotly contested states, while trying to raise money to launch an anti-Obama TV ad.
Yfat Yossifor Courtesy of Mlive.com

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 7:23 pm

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It's All Politics
5:38 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

Mysterious Anti-Obama Spam Texts Linked To Republican Consulting Group

A screenshot of an anti-Obama text message received Tuesday evening.
NPR

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 6:53 pm

If you're using social media to follow the presidential campaign or even if you're related to someone else who's doing that, there's a good chance your cellphone got spammed Tuesday night with an anti-Obama text message.

The messages went out between 7:30 and 10 p.m. They were anonymous but quickly traced to a Republican consulting firm in Northern Virginia.

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It's All Politics
6:46 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Study: Secret Donors Significantly Fueling Pro-Romney TV Ads

Costumed demonstrators on Oct. 3 in Denver, before the first presidential debate.
Doug Pensinger Getty Images

Since April, most of the TV ads supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have come from outside groups, not from Romney's own campaign. And those groups raised more than half of their money from secret donors, according to a six-month study of ads.

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Presidential Race
6:04 am
Sun October 7, 2012

Taxes Are Certain, But What About Romney's Cuts?

Supporters watch Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speak on Friday in Abingdon, Va. Romney started off his campaign calling for big tax cuts, but has backed off that somewhat.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 1:24 pm

Republican Mitt Romney started his campaign calling for big tax cuts, but now he has changed course. He's warning middle-class families not to raise their hopes too high.

Romney couldn't have been more emphatic than he was last November at a candidates' debate in Michigan.

"What I want to do is help the people who've been hurt the most, and that's the middle class," he said. "And so what I do is focus a substantial tax break on middle-income Americans."

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It's All Politics
9:04 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Latest Fundraising Picture Shows Strong Month For Obama

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 1:21 pm

Fundraising reports filed last night by the presidential campaigns show President Obama with a slight advantage in fundraising last month, while Republican Mitt Romney has the edge by some other measures.

Each candidate is raising money for his own campaign committee, plus his national party committee and a joint fundraising committee or two.

So what you see depends on what you look at.

In cash on hand, the overall Romney organization finished August with more than $168 million — that's $43 million more than the overall Obama organization.

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It's All Politics
6:35 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Obama's Post-Charlotte Bounce May Owe More To TV Ads Than Convention

President Obama gives his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 11:24 am

It's become conventional wisdom that President Obama's new lead in the polls is a bounce, coming out of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C.

But an analysis from the Wesleyan Media Project suggests that the bounce might be due to TV ads as much as grand speeches. The Obama campaign and its allies laid out $21.1 million for TV during the two weeks of the party conventions. Over that same stretch, Republican Mitt Romney and his backers spent significantly less, $12.9 million.

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It's All Politics
10:36 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Words Wealthy Democratic Donors Should Get Used To: 'It's Me, Rahm'

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants you ... if you're a wealthy Democrat who can write a $10 million or $20 million check.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Sat September 8, 2012 2:11 pm

Now that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in charge of raising really big dollars for a superPAC that supports President Obama, wealthy Democrats all over the country may be eyeing their phones nervously.

Emanuel, the former Obama White House chief of staff, is known for not taking no for an answer and for aggressively going after what he wants.

Indeed, he's a ferocious fundraiser who gets to the point, often throwing in an epithet or two for emphasis, just the sort of rainmaker needed by Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama superPAC that desperately needs cash.

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Politics
5:59 am
Sat September 8, 2012

As Election Nears, Keeping Donors A Secret Is Trickier

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Sun September 9, 2012 5:32 pm

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It's All Politics
12:15 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Both Sides Can Claim Some Money Advantage In Presidential Race

Air Force One is parked at John F. Kennedy International Airport before President Obama's July 30 departure from New York City, where he was attending a private fundraiser.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Tue August 21, 2012 1:53 pm

New reports from the presidential campaigns show that Republican Mitt Romney last month widened his cash advantage over President Obama. But the numbers reported to the Federal Election Commission paint a more complex picture of the race and the vast amounts of money fueling the campaign.

The Obama campaign committee, Obama for America, reported raising about $39 million, almost $11 million more than was raised in July by the Romney campaign committee, Romney For President.

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Election 2012
5:20 am
Tue August 21, 2012

Campaign Contribution Totals Reveal Complex Picture

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 9:01 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A moment ago we heard warnings that Todd Akin will lose financial support if he stays in the race. For a campaign, of course, money is like oxygen, and the presidential campaigns have set out their latest reports on how they're breathing. President Obama and Mitt Romney each have an advantage, depending on which bank account you're looking at. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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