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.

During the early phase of her presidential run, Hillary Clinton has been dogged by scrutiny of her family's foundation, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation . The Clintons have pushed back, calling the foundation among the most transparent foundations in the world. Bill Clinton, in an interview with Town & Country magazine, said it was, "by a good long stretch, the most transparent of all the presidential foundations and more transparent than a lot of other major foundations in the...

Hillary Clinton made a surprising move this week. It wasn't running for president — she'd already set the stage for that — but embracing the idea of a constitutional amendment to restrict or eliminate big money in politics. The notion of amending the Constitution this way has been discussed, literally for decades. But Clinton is joining a new, if small, chorus of prominent politicians who are talking it up. "We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccounted money out of it...

Here's a question for you last-minute tax filers. See that little checkoff box at the top of the 1040 tax form , the one labeled "Presidential Election Campaign"? You didn't check it, did you? If not, then you're just like pretty much everybody else. That little box is for presidential public financing. It's on the tax form because of the Watergate scandal — because of million-dollar contributions, secret donors and government decisions favoring corporate moneymen. In 1972, Congress created...

You can still check the box on your 1040 federal income tax return and earmark $3 for presidential public financing. This Watergate-era reform was supposed to push big money out of presidential politics, but so far this cycle, not many people have checked it. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Here's a question as you finish your tax return. That little checkoff box at the top of the 1040 form, the one labeled, presidential election...

As Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., prepared for his official announcement of a White House run, so had Conservative Solutions PAC. It's a superPAC focused exclusively on helping Rubio reach his goal. Technically, Conservative Solutions has no ties to Rubio. His campaign can't coordinate messages or strategy with it. But Rubio isn't the first to have a superPAC revving up at announcement time. Since 2010, when federal courts approved these "independent expenditure" groups, financed by unlimited but...

Sen. Bob Menendez , who came up in the sharp-edged politics of Hudson County, N.J., has been under varying levels of ethics scrutiny in seven of his nine-plus years as a senator. He'd never been indicted — until yesterday. The indictment landed like a chunk of loose concrete from Hudson County's Pulaski Skyway : 14 counts alleging travel, vacations and contributions in exchange for the kind of clout a senator can wield in Washington. Justice Department prosecutors called it a bribery scheme....

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET Two liberal watchdog groups are challenging the strategy that four presidential hopefuls — Republicans Jeb Bush , Scott Walker and Rick Santorum and Democrat Martin O'Malley — are using to avoid legal contribution limits and disclosure requirements. In complaints filed at the Federal Election Commission, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 say that while the four politicians all maintain that they're not even considering running for president, they all have...

This is Part One in an occasional series of features on campaign finance, called "Money Rules." The hunt for big bucks is changing the way politicians run for president. When a candidate finally admits he or she is a candidate, donors are limited to gifts of $2,700 . (A donor can give an additional $2,700 if the candidate makes it through to the general election.) Not so long ago, a "testing-the-waters" or "exploratory" committee was the usual first step in a campaign. But that's changed....

Hillary Clinton is, at least for now, not officially running for president. That's what she has said all along, and now all six members of the Federal Election Commission are on record agreeing with her. The commissioners — three Republicans and three Democrats — unanimously voted they found "no reason to believe" that the former secretary of state crossed the legal line between non-candidate and candidate and that the Super PAC Ready For Hillary is acting as her campaign committee. Stop...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1CkfDWTXIk With assets approaching $226 million, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation plays a prominent role in international development. It has battled HIV/AIDS, provided relief after tsunamis and earthquakes and helped farmers and entrepreneurs in developing countries. "And we believe that together we can find solutions to the most daunting human challenges," says the narrator in a promotional video for the foundation. "This is what we do. This...

As the presidential hopefuls chase after big donors, the Center for Responsive Politics brings us a quick look in the rearview mirror : The 2014 congressional midterm elections cost $3.77 billion, the center says, making them — no surprise here — the most expensive midterms yet. CRP also reports that those dollars appeared to come from a smaller cadre of donors — 773,582, the center says. That's about 5 percent fewer than in the 2010 midterms. CRP found that the average contribution swelled...

Three Republican presidential hopefuls declined Sunday night to insult some of the party's biggest donors. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, asked by debate moderator Jonathan Karl of ABC News if billionaires now have too much influence in both major parties, agreed that it wasn't a problem — if not exactly for the same reasons. The senators spoke at a semiannual gathering of billionaires David and Charles Koch's donor network, which underwrites a...

Republican presidential hopefuls are turning out this weekend for two big events, but just one of them, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, plans to be at both. Cruz is among seven possible contenders who spoke Saturday at the Iowa Freedom Summit, co-sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and the group Citizens United. Sunday night, Cruz is scheduled to join two possible primary rivals, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., at a semi-annual conference of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce....

Americans for Prosperity , the most prominent arm of the Koch brothers' organization , put Republican lawmakers on notice Thursday, setting out a conservative agenda for Congress. AFP leaders say it will be pushed by the group's grass-roots supporters in 34 states. Tim Phillips, president of AFP, said at a Washington press conference that congressional Republicans "failed miserably" a decade ago, especially on cutting the federal budget. "They've been given a second chance by the American...

Prospective Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is moving to get his share via a new political committee. The way he did it could blaze a new trail for candidates seeking out million-dollar donors. Bush's action comes just before the fifth anniversary, next Wednesday, of Citizens United , the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that restructured the campaign finance landscape . In the five years since, there's been an explosion of political money. The organization around Bush, a former Florida...

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Three advocacy organizations — across ideological lines — are telling congressional investigators to back off in a probe of EPA ties to a leading environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council. Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana are leading the investigation. They contend that NRDC lobbyists have exerted too much influence over EPA on the issues of carbon reduction and the proposed Pebble Mine at Bristol Bay, Alaska. In September, Vitter,...

The costs of solar energy are plummeting, and now are about on par with the electricity generated at big power plants. This new reality intensifies a long-running business and regulatory battle, between the mainline electric utility companies and newer firms that provide solar systems for homeowners' rooftops. Sometimes the rivalry looks more like hardball politics than marketplace economics. The way rooftop solar typically works, the homeowner leases rooftop panels from a company that owns...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: There are several new provisions tucked into the trillion-dollar spending bill that Congress is set to approve. This is the one that will prevent a government shutdown. And we're going to peel back one of the provisions in the bill. It creates new opportunities for big-dollar fundraising for the Democratic and Republican Parties. NPR's Peter Overby reports. PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Look at it one way and...

A new analysis takes aim at one of political science's evergreen topics: What do donors get in exchange for their campaign contributions? The answer , according to three researchers at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, is that "investments in on-going access to policymakers are associated with future tax benefits." In other words, when corporations deployed lobbyists and made contributions from their political action committees to tax-writing committees, they got...

How much power should corporations wield in Washington? It's an enduring question — and now the Sunlight Foundation has devised a new way to gauge that power. The foundation took the 200 corporations most active in Washington, analyzed the years 2007-2012 and applied several metrics: what the companies got in federal contracts and other federal support, what they spent on lobbying, how much their executives and political action committees gave in campaign contributions. Bill Allison, the...

It's a record most Alaskans might wish they could give back: The Center for Public Integrity calculates that KTUU TV in Anchorage ran more U.S. Senate ads this cycle than any other television station in the country — 12,300 in all. Those Senate spots made up the bulk of the 13,400 political ads since January. KTUU General Manager Andrew MacLeod says 2014 was the the station's busiest year ever. By contrast, off-year 2013 was relatively light. Besides gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primaries,...

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: And now another story of big, political money coming to small-town America. In Cole County, Missouri, a circuit court judge is fighting to stay on the bench. Her challenger was underfunded until he got some outside help. NPR's Peter Overby reports. PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Patricia Joyce has been a Cole County judge since 1994. In August, she campaigned for reelection at the county fair. Her campaign...

When you talk about "outside" money in politics, there's a good chance you'll talk about billionaire activists David and Charles Koch . Especially if you're Harry Reid. The Senate majority leader regularly takes to the Senate floor to slam the Kochs for financing a network of conservative groups. Back in March, he said he was criticizing "two very wealthy brothers who intend to buy their own Congress, a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy." Not that...

Republican Party leaders are urging big donors to start writing checks, and the check-writers now include Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson . NPR has confirmed a Politico report that Adelson is putting in $20 million, evenly divided between Crossroads GPS and American Action Network . Both are 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that don't disclose their donors — or nondonors, as an AAN spokesman put it. Pro-Democratic superPACs have surprised conservatives by outadvertising them in...

Tommy Boggs, a longtime lobbyist who in many ways epitomized the Washington establishment, has died. His sister, Morning Edition commentator Cokie Roberts, said he apparently had a heart attack. Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., 73, pioneered a new, more professional way of lobbying starting in the 1960s, when he saw how power in Washington was becoming more diffuse. Clout on Capitol Hill spread from the House and Senate leadership to more junior members, especially in reforms after the Watergate...

Rich families sustain American politics. Some produce candidates; others supply money. And in rare instances, a family will do both. Meet Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts , founder of Ending Spending, an independent political organization that's among the top 10 spenders this election cycle . Three of his four children are politically active, including one who's running for governor. A Billionaire With Political Punch The gubernatorial hopeful is Pete Ricketts, a conservative Republican. He...

A former Iowa state senator says he concealed money he took for shifting loyalty from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul during the 2012 presidential campaign. There's always a certain amount of weirdness in the Iowa presidential caucuses, and in the 2012 cycle the peak weirdness might have come just before New Year's. Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson, the Iowa chairman for Bachmann's campaign, jumped to the Paul campaign six days before the voting — immediately setting off rumors...

Finally, we now have a detailed IRS account of its attempts to resurrect the long-gone hard drive in Lois Lerner's computer. But it's not definitive. Lerner headed the tax-exempt organizations division in 2011, when it was dealing with hundreds of applications from conservative groups. They wanted status as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, so they could raise unlimited sums without identifying the donors and engage in extensive political activity. That spring, Lerner's hard drive...

Members of Congress face a deadline next Thursday — 90 days before the election — to put constituent newsletters in the mail. Carefully timing the mailings is just one fillip in the fine art of congressional communications, especially those that might suggest campaign messages. "It's either a congressional perk that looks a lot like someone campaigning with tax dollars, or it's part of your constituent service responsibility," says Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, in an acknowledgement...

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