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.

When this presidential campaign got underway last spring, the buzz was that a candidate would be propelled by passing off the heavy costs of TV advertising to a friendly superPAC. But now the opposite is true. Donald Trump, leading the Republican field, has no superPAC. Some other superPACs are pouring cash into TV, but their candidates are stuck low in the polls. Trump just recently started buying TV time, after months of depending on news coverage to promote his campaign. Meanwhile, Jeb...

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton attended her first event for an organization called the Hillary Victory Fund. About 160 guests attended, and the event grossed more than $5 million. The Hillary Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee for Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic committees of 32 states and Puerto Rico. DNC spokesman Eric Walker said the victory fund's mission is to win more than just the White House. "We do not want it to be a lonely...

Even as negotiators struggled this week at the Paris summit on climate change, Senate Republicans held a subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill to challenge the underlying science. They called it "Data or Dogma?" "The computer models are profoundly wrong," said Sen. Ted Cruz , R-Texas, who's running for president . "Not a little bit wrong, but profoundly inconsistent with the data and the evidence." While congressional Republicans remain staunchly opposed to action on climate change, corporate...

Florida mailman and gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes has pleaded guilty to one felony for his campaign-finance reform caper last April. He landed his flying machine on the Capitol lawn before authorities apprehended him. He meant to deliver individual letters to all senators and House members, urging them to clamp down on superPACs, "dark money" groups and millionaire donors. That didn't work out. He was arrested; Capitol police confiscated the letters and prosecutors hit him with six charges....

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The political network led by billionaires David and Charles Koch is building what's meant to be a seamless system of grass-roots groups, designed to advance the network's conservative and libertarian goals year in and year out, while also helping like-minded politicians. This strategy could have come straight out of a labor union's handbook, or an Obama campaign memo: community organizing. "This isn't just about an election cycle," Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, told a...

There's a fresh look at how transparent major companies are when it comes to their political activity. More than two dozen companies on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index scored 90 percent or better, out of 100, in the new rankings . The high ratings don't correlate with the companies' line of work. The top 28 included medical equipment manufacturer Becton, Dickinson and Co., railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern, AFLAC insurance, tech giants Microsoft and Intel, and drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb...

A potentially controversial sentence in the prepared text of Pope Francis' address went unspoken when he delivered the speech to Congress. The line appears to challenge the dominant role of money in American politics. A paragraph in the prepared text quotes briefly from the Declaration of Independence — the passage on self-evident truths — and then says, "If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance." The...

What would it take to make the White House wannabes stop chasing after big donors? From 1975 to 1999, the answer was federal matching funds — money that candidates could get by raising more money from small donors and spending less time schmoozing with the well-heeled. Now, the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund, an advocate of more limits on campaign money, has produced a model of how that would affect the early stages of the 2016 race. The analysis assumes a 6-to-1...

Opportunity and Freedom PAC, and its two siblings, Opportunity and Freedom PAC numbers 1 and 2, were meant to be heavyweight sluggers for Republican Rick Perry, providing big-budget support for his second presidential bid. But Perry himself turned out to be a welterweight at best. The former Texas governor entered the race late, raised a skimpy $1.1 million by June 30 and " suspended " his campaign barely two months later. "We had a plan," political consultant Austin Barbour, senior advisor...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: It's not news for presidential hopefuls to bemoan the money chase. But this year, they're lamenting the fact that millionaires underwrite the super PACs that most of the candidates depend on. Today, Hillary Clinton's campaign rolled out a set of proposals aimed at restricting the money's influence in politics. NPR's Peter Overby reports. PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Clinton has super PAC support of her own,...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TfKZLns06c Late August may be the absolutely worst time to launch a political TV blitz. But a Democratic superPAC, Priorities USA Action , is offering up a minicampaign this week and next, warning Republicans that their heated rhetoric on immigration is captured on videotape and being prepped for prime time later in the race. Since billionaire Donald Trump announced for the Republican nomination in June, he's set the agenda in the immigration debate. As he has...

When billionaire developer Donald Trump entered the presidential race two months ago, he drew a sharp line between other candidates — needy candidates, always trading favors for money — and himself. "I'm really rich. I assure you of that," he said as supporters cheered. "And by the way, I'm not even saying that in a bragga — that's the kind of mindset, that's the kind of thinking, you need for this country." But politics has a hardy euphemism that comes into play here: the word evolve. It...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19bGK8OalS8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVMJC1PTmsw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDZClQADEsA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YNpmQ-5REA A lobbying battle is ratcheting up as members of Congress prepare to vote on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. The lobbying followed lawmakers home for the August recess, as advocacy groups run TV ads, telephone congressional offices, use social media and attend legislators' public meetings. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D...

It was hard not to notice Rick Perry's plight last month, when the Republican presidential campaigns filed their financial disclosures. The former Texas governor's total take so far is $1.1 million. Cash on hand as of June 30 was $884,000. For comparison, fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign raised $14.3 million, with $8.5 million on hand. But even as Perry For President Inc. is cutting its payroll, his people have a rescue plan. If it works, it's likely to set a new standard for how...

Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig , a longtime critic of big political money, has set the stage for a presidential bid. It's not your usual White House run, however. He said Tuesday that if he can crowdsource $1 million by Labor Day, he'll leave Harvard and enter the Democratic primaries. He'd be a single-issue candidate, campaigning for a legislative package that would undo restrictive voting laws, make Election Day a national holiday, bar the gerrymandering of congressional districts, and...

In what may be a perhaps-almost-final word on the 2013 IRS controversy and alleged targeting of Tea Party groups, a two-year bipartisan Senate investigation found the agency needs to cut through bureaucratic red tape and institute better communication and management. But members of the Senate Finance Committee, which issued the report, were largely split along party lines on the question of why the IRS went off the rails. Republicans charged that they were stymied in finding out "the full...

Jesse Benton, a political operative in the White House bids of both Sen. Rand Paul and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, was indicted Wednesday on charges that he schemed to pay off a top supporter of another candidate in an effort to win the 2012 Iowa caucuses for Ron Paul. The government alleges in an indictment released Wednesday that Benton, along with two other operatives, "conspired" to "knowingly defraud the United States," obstruct justice, falsify records and "conceal," "cover up," ...

In the weeks since Donald Trump launched his self-financed bid for president, the multibillionaire's hard-edged rhetoric has gotten far more attention than the potential impact of his massive wealth. Trump has several times said his net worth is or exceeds $10 billion, providing all the money he needs to run. "I don't need anybody's money," he said as he announced his candidacy in June. "I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich."...

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, running in the Democratic presidential primaries, has raised about $15 million, his campaign said Thursday. His campaign emphasized the grass-roots strength of his fundraising: 250,000 donors making nearly 400,000 contributions of $250 or less. The numbers come from a quarterly disclosure report being filed at the Federal Election Commission, and are measured from when Sanders launched his campaign April 30. The maximum legal contribution to a presidential...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: A big battle over a tiny federal agency is still roiling Capitol Hill. The Export-Import Bank - we'll get to what it does in a minute - is set to lose its authorization at midnight. That's because Congress went home last week without renewing it, but the fight goes on. Here is NPR's Peter Overby. PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The job of the Export-Import Bank is to promote U.S. exports by financing deals with...

The first political operative to ever be found guilty of illegally coordinating between a superPAC and campaign was sentenced Friday to two years in prison and two additional years of probation. "I did it, it was wrong when I did it, and I knew it was wrong when I did it," Tyler Harber admitted in federal court Friday. Harber controlled both the campaign and superPAC that ran ads supporting Chris Perkins, a Virginia Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly. Harber took a big...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Millions of dollars will be spent in this presidential election by super-PAC-supporting candidates. These outside groups are not supposed to coordinate with the campaigns, but increasingly, that line is getting fuzzy. NPR's Peter Overby reports on a political operative who got caught crossing that line. Tomorrow, he'll be sentenced in federal court and faces up to a decade in prison. PETER OVERBY,...

Jeb Bush was pleading for money. Late last month a fundraising email, sent in his name, asked donors for "$100, $50, $25, or anything you can spare right now." Bush said his political action committee still needed $5,674 to meet a monthly goal. The same day his organization hit "send" on that email, Bush was talking about the big-donor fundraising for his superPAC — $100 million so far, some of it solicited by Bush himself. "We're going to completely adhere to the law for sure," the former...

A New York Times-CBS News poll offers compelling new numbers measuring Americans' attitudes toward the rising tide of political money. Just one question: Which numbers should you believe? The current system, in place since the 2010 Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, allows the biggest donors to operate largely unregulated, and often secretly. That decision, and a lower-court ruling called, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, have sent presidential candidates in ardent pursuit of billionaires...

Florida postman Doug Hughes made headlines last month for landing his gyrocopter on the lawn in front of the Capitol building. In an interview with NPR, Hughes said he "made every effort to send word ahead" about the flight, but also knew he would be taken into custody. He made the flight anyway, he said, to "get a message to the American people — not that there's a problem with Congress but that there are solutions to the problem." Hughes spoke to NPR on Thursday before appearing in federal...

If Congress is all about sausage-making , Washington's political-money industry has its own specialty: slicing the particular sausage that is campaign finance law, thinner and thinner. The meat of the law is in its definitions. What is a "contribution"? An "expenditure"? What does "coordinate" really mean? "Public communication"? How about "candidate"? The campaign-finance law, its amendments, regulations and related court decisions define these terms and dozens of others. Nowadays, the art...

The price tag for the most expensive penthouses in Manhattan is just edging past $100 million. That's also the size of contributions given by conservative businessman David Koch and Hollywood mogul David Geffen to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where each philanthropist got naming rights for a building. And $100 million is what political advisers to Republican Jeb Bush expect to have by June 1 in the bank accounts of Right To Rise SuperPAC — the unlimited-contributions committee...

The presidential hopefuls haven't spent much time so far with voters. Instead, they've committed many days to courting the millionaires and billionaires who can fuel a White House bid. And at the same time, activists on the left and right are seeking to redefine political corruption, which they believe this is. One prime example: The political network of brothers David and Charles Koch — with pledges of nearly $900 million — seems to bedazzle prospective Republican candidates. In a recent...

If there's one thing that today's Supreme Court doesn't like, it's governmental overreach in regulating political money. But if there's something the court likes even less, it's the increasing prominence of money in electing America's judges. That's how five justices came to uphold a rule in Florida that prevents judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign cash. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's four liberals in rejecting an appeal by Lanell Williams-Yulee, a...

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