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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4:47am

Fri November 8, 2013
Politics

Outside Money Plays Big Role In Va. Race For Governor

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 10:17 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Two of the big winners in Virginia's elections this week were not on the ballot. They actually aren't even Virginians. They are two men who spent more than $2 million each to help elect Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor.

NPR's Peter Overby reports on the Election Day impact of San Francisco environmentalist Tom Steyer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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5:26am

Wed November 6, 2013
NPR News Investigations

Secret Persuasion: How Big Campaign Donors Stay Anonymous

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 4:48 pm

A composite image shows part of the NPR/Center for Responsive Politics reporting team's whiteboard at NPR headquarters that was used to map out how Wellspring connects to other social welfare groups. (Click the enlarge button to see a full-size image.)
John W. Poole NPR

Part two of our "Secret Persuasion" story reported with the Center for Responsive Politics. Read the first part here.

As tax-exempt organizations become a vehicle of choice for big political donors, one powerful appeal is the anonymity. Federal laws allow tax-exempt groups — unlike political committees — to withhold their donor lists from disclosure.

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5:20am

Tue November 5, 2013
NPR News Investigations

From Social Welfare Groups, A River Of Political Influence

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 11:38 am

The Au Sable River in Michigan is a popular place for fly fishermen and the heart of a debate unexpectedly influenced by largely invisible social welfare organizations.
Christine Arrasmith NPR

Part one of the two-part "Secret Persuasion" investigation, reported with the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bruce Pregler walks down the slope from his cabin, eases into the Au Sable River and casts his line; fishing takes his thoughts away from his downstate law practice.

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4:23pm

Thu October 24, 2013
Politics

Outside Political Money Floods Virginia Races

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 6:25 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Virginia holds elections next month for state offices, including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. But what was historically a pretty sedate affair is, this year, drawing millions of dollars from all over the country.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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5:39pm

Fri October 18, 2013
Politics

Money For Dam Project In Shutdown Deal Riles Conservatives

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 10:09 pm

The Olmsted Locks and Dam project is under construction on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This week's congressional compromise to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling had a few other provisions as well.

One of them allows additional spending on a lock and dam project on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois.

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6:12pm

Tue October 15, 2013
The Government Shutdown

Why A Medical Device Tax Became Part Of The Fiscal Fight

Among the bargaining chips in the budget crisis on Capitol Hill, there's the small but persistent issue of taxing medical device manufacturers.

The 2.3 percent sales tax covers everything from MRI machines to replacement hips and maybe even surgical gloves. The tax was imposed to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. It didn't attract much attention at first — at least, not outside the world of medical device manufacturers.

But they have waged a persistent campaign to undo the tax, and right now is the closest they have come to succeeding.

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5:55am

Sat May 25, 2013
Politics

IRS Hearings Highlight Ambiguity Of Nonprofits In Politics

Originally published on Sat May 25, 2013 1:19 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. In the two weeks since the Internal Revenue Service scandal erupted, the acting commissioner has been ousted, the head of the relevant section has been put on administrative leave. The Justice Department has begun investigating the scrutiny given to conservative groups that sought tax exempt status and three congressional committees have held hearings bombarding IRS officials with questions.

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4:38am

Thu May 23, 2013
Politics

IRS Official's Silence Riles House Committee Members

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 12:54 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The IRS has admitted to targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. And yesterday at a House hearing the IRS director of exempt organizations said, quote: "I have not done anything wrong." She then declined to testify. Lois Lerner's brief appearance at the committee was just the beginning of a stormy, five-hour session filled with angry outbursts and allegations of political motives.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Lois Lerner did read a statement that she had done her job properly.

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6:01pm

Thu May 16, 2013
It's All Politics

Some Lawmakers Want Big-Budget Groups Included In IRS Debate

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 7:24 pm

5:23pm

Fri May 10, 2013
Governing

After Targeting Conservative Groups, IRS Apologizes

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 7:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. After more than a year of denials by the IRS, a director at the agency apologized today for its targeting of Tea Party and patriot groups. As NPR's Peter Overby reports, the apology has reignited a political controversy.

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3:24am

Fri May 3, 2013
It's All Politics

Why Lobbying Is Now Increasingly In The Shadows

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 12:14 pm

The lobbying industry in Washington is becoming more secretive.
Bill Ingalls/NASA Getty Images

While ideological gridlock continues to immobilize Capitol Hill, another of Washington's institutions is morphing behind the scenes.

The lobbying industry is becoming more secretive — reversing a trend that dates back to the 1990s. And campaign money now looms ever larger as a critical element in the persuasion business.

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11:15am

Fri April 26, 2013
It's All Politics

FEC: DOMA Limits Political Donations By Gay Married Couples

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 3:46 pm

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Winslow of Massachusetts wants same-sex married couples to have the same right to pool their money for political donations as other married couples. But the Federal Election Commission says the Defense of Marriage Act won't allow it. The constitutionality of DOMA is now before the Supreme Court.
Charles Krupa AP

Maybe it's not your first thought after saying "I do," but federal election law gives married couples some advantages in making political contributions. The Federal Election Commission tried Thursday to make those same breaks available to couples in same-sex marriages — but commissioners said they're thwarted by the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

True, President Obama's Justice Department no longer defends DOMA, and the Supreme Court is weighing whether to get rid of it. But the FEC didn't want to get too far out in front. The vote was a reluctant 5-0.

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7:47pm

Tue April 23, 2013
It's All Politics

Bill Would Expand Disclosure Of Political Money

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 10:56 am

Senators Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, discussing their new campaign finance legislation at an April 23, 2013 Capitol Hill news conference.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

The partisan rift over disclosing political donors has widened since last year's election. But now, along come Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., with a bill that would radically expand the disclosure of political money trails.

Their bill is aimed at outing the wealthy donors, corporations and unions that financed some $300 million in secretly funded campaign ads last year. Most of the anonymous money was raised and spent by 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, including the conservative Crossroads GPS and the liberal Patriot Majority.

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12:51pm

Sat March 30, 2013
It's All Politics

IRS To 'Social Welfare' Groups: Show Me The Political Ad Money

Originally published on Sat March 30, 2013 3:07 pm

Sen. Carl Levin has been a vocal advocate for transparency in political ad spending.
Alex Wong Getty Images

There are still unanswered questions about the politically active 501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups. The anonymously funded entities' multimillion-dollar ad budgets helped to clog the airwaves last year.

How much did they really spend to intervene in the 2012 campaign? What kinds of sources supplied their money? What ties do they maintain with other nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies?

The IRS is now trying to address some of the unknowns by asking organizations to fill out a questionnaire about their finances.

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2:41pm

Thu March 28, 2013
It's All Politics

Thieves Target Political Ad Consultants On New FCC Site

A woman views a Mitt Romney campaign ad in September, a month after the launch of an online government database that is supposed to make it easier for the public to see what political ads air in big markets, and how much is spent on them.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Poke into the obscure corners of the Federal Communications Commission's website, and you can find one of the deepest disclosures in campaign finance.

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9:51pm

Sun March 10, 2013
It's All Politics

For Some Conservatives, It's Homecoming Week

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 7:23 am

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., last year.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

The American conservative movement has its homecoming this week: the Conservative Political Action Conference, where everyone from politicians to peddlers is out to inspire the faithful.

Last year, one of the headline speakers was former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who harked back to the second-ever CPAC in 1975, when Ronald Reagan laid out a vision for a conservative Republican Party.

She invoked his image of a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels.

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5:48pm

Thu February 28, 2013
It's All Politics

After Tough 2012, Conservative Koch Brothers Regroup

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

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

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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1:27pm

Mon February 25, 2013
The Two-Way

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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9:35am

Sat February 23, 2013
It's All Politics

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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5:39pm

Tue February 19, 2013
It's All Politics

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

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

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

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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4:39pm

Mon February 18, 2013
It's All Politics

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

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

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

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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3:33am

Fri February 8, 2013
It's All Politics

Even Without Earmarks, Tax Breaks And Special Deals Fill Bills

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

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

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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3:24am

Mon January 14, 2013
It's All Politics

Critics Decry Looser Rules For Inauguration Fundraising

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

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

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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3:32am

Wed January 9, 2013
It's All Politics

Lobbying Battle Over Hagel Under Way Before Obama's Nod

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

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

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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5:10am

Sun December 30, 2012
It's All Politics

Conservatives Invoke NAACP Case In Fight For Secret Donors

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

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

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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6:22pm

Thu December 20, 2012
It's All Politics

Financial Ties Bind NRA, Gun Industry

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

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

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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3:50am

Wed December 19, 2012
It's All Politics

Single-Issue Solidarity Behind NRA's Clout

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

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

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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5:55pm

Mon December 10, 2012
It's All Politics

DeMint And Heritage: Playing Off Each Other's Strengths

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

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

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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8:40am

Fri November 23, 2012
It's All Politics

How To Oust A Congressman, SuperPAC-Style

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

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

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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5:52pm

Mon November 19, 2012
It's All Politics

Fiscal Cliff Siren: Meet The Man Behind The Curtain

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

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

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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