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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Politics
4:32 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Hillary Clinton Supports Amendment To Get Hidden Money Out Of Politics

"We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccounted money out of it, once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment," Hillary Clinton said at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa Tuesday.
Michael B. Thomas AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 10:27 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
8:03 am
Wed April 15, 2015

You Didn't Check The 'Presidential Election Campaign' Box On Your Taxes, Did You?

iStock

Originally published on Wed April 15, 2015 10:46 am

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.

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It's All Politics
2:12 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

Who Needs One SuperPAC When You Can Have Four?

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign recently leaked claims that the four superPACs backing him would pull in $31 million in the campaign's first week.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 14, 2015 12:59 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
11:24 am
Thu April 2, 2015

The Menendez Paradox: Facing Charges After Testifying Against Corruption

Sen. Robert Menendez on his way to the Senate floor for a series of votes last week.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 8:50 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
3:07 pm
Tue March 31, 2015

Watchdog Groups File Complaints Against Likely Candidates

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is one of four "un-candidates" being targeted by liberal groups Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21. They say the politicians have crossed the line into candidacy based on their activities in recent months.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 1, 2015 1:30 pm

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

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It's All Politics
1:44 pm
Mon March 30, 2015

Money Rules: Candidates Go Around The Law, As Cash Records To Be Smashed

"Who, me? Run?" Would-be presidential candidates are ditching "testing the waters" and "exploratory committees" to hold onto unlimited and undisclosed cash for longer.
LA Johnson/NPR

Originally published on Mon April 20, 2015 7:32 am

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.)

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It's All Politics
1:44 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

The Rules Don't Apply To Hillary Clinton ... Or Any Of The Other Un-Candidates

Hillary Clinton speaks to the media after keynoting a Women's Empowerment Event at the United Nations on Tuesday in New York City. Clinton answered questions about recent allegations of an improperly used email account during her tenure as secretary of state.
Yana Paskova Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 13, 2015 5:20 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
12:47 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

2014 Midterm Election Was The Most Expensive One Yet

Supporters cheer in Colorado Springs, Colo., as a television broadcast declares that Republicans have taken control of the Senate. Republican candidates, party committees and outside groups spent about $44 million more than Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Marc Piscotty Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 2:41 pm

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.

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Politics
2:40 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

FEC Invites Comment On Campaign Finance Laws At First Public Hearing

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 6:53 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's All Politics
2:07 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

At Koch Summit, A Freewheeling Debate Among GOP Hopefuls

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., center, meets with members of the Londonderry Fish and Game Club in Litchfield, N.H., on Jan. 14. Paul was one of three GOP presidential hopefuls who attended Sunday's semiannual gathering of David and Charles Koch's donor network in California.
Jim Cole AP

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 5:52 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
7:33 am
Sun January 25, 2015

A GOP Weekend, Courtesy Of The Koch Network And Citizens United

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leaves the stage after speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 12:59 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
3:25 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Conservative Koch Brothers' Group Puts Congressional GOP On Notice

Congressional Republicans have "been given a second chance by the American people," AFP President Tim Phillips said. "And we're going to hold them accountable. We're determined about that."
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 8:12 am

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.

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Politics
2:16 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

5 Years After 'Citizens United,' SuperPACs Continue To Grow

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens before a Nov. 20 speaking engagement in Washington.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 4:45 pm

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.

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NPR Story
3:13 am
Tue December 30, 2014

Progressives Create State Innovation Exchange To Counter ALEC

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 10:19 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's All Politics
9:38 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Advocacy Groups Tell Lawmakers To Back Off

Workers with the Pebble Mine project test-drill in July 2007 in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma.
Al Grillo AP

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 2:00 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
10:24 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Study: Campaign Cash Brings Tax Benefits On Capitol Hill

J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:55 pm

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."

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Politics
1:48 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Top Spenders On Capitol Hill Pay Billions, Receive Trillions

The amount of money spent on Capitol Hill is way more than small change — but the impact of that money is a little murky. Here, the U.S. Capitol is reflected in a fountain full of coins on Election Day this year.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 1:24 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
3:51 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Alaska Station Sets Dubious Record: Most Senate Campaign Ads

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan greets supporters on election night in Anchorage. The as-yet-undecided race between Sullivan and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich was the hottest in the state.
Ted S. Warren AP

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.

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Politics
2:21 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Climate Change Activists Come Up Short In Midterm Elections

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 8:23 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Politics
2:39 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Money Mixes Up Missouri Circuit-Court Race

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 11:17 am

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.

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Politics
5:34 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Dems Probably Won't Take The House, So Why Are They Raising So Much?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has raised millions from fired-up small donors.
Catherine Lane iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 9:12 am

Here's an odd twist in the midterm elections: Even though Republicans are generally expected to keep their majority in the House, it's the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that is raking in the bucks.

A big reason for the difference lies in online fundraising.

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It's All Politics
2:24 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Billionaire GOP Donor Finally Opens Checkbook For 2014

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 5:20 pm

Republican Party leaders are urging big donors to start writing checks, and the check-writers now include Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

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It's All Politics
4:47 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Tommy Boggs, Influential Lobbyist, Dies At 73

Brian K. Diggs AP

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 11:44 am

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 scandal. In the executive branch, the number of regulatory agencies increased.

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It's All Politics
1:15 am
Mon September 1, 2014

A Political Family, Funding And Running On Both Sides Of The Aisle

The Ricketts family poses on the Chicago Cubs field in 2010, a year after they bought the team: Laura Ricketts (from left), Joe Ricketts, Marlene Ricketts, Todd Ricketts, Tom Ricketts and Pete Ricketts.
Nam Y. Huh AP

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 9:02 am

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

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It's All Politics
4:41 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Former Iowa Lawmaker Admits To Getting Payoff Before 2012 Caucuses

Kent Sorenson says he was paid for his endorsement of Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential campaign — and that the exchange was hidden from the public.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 7:24 pm

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 that he had taken a payoff for switching sides.

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It's All Politics
10:57 am
Wed August 13, 2014

More Details Surface On Missing IRS Hard Drive

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., holds up a hard drive as he questions IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a July 23 hearing.
Uncredited AP

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 12:41 pm

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.

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Politics
2:15 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Facing A Mass-Mailing Deadline, Lawmakers Get Frank Fast

Members of Congress are racing to take advantage of "franking" privileges, which allow them to replace postage with their signature. They are not allowed to use franking within 90 days of an election.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 6:07 pm

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.

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It's All Politics
5:05 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Democrats Make New Bid To Require Donor Transparency

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition reception in Washington in June. On Wednesday, he appeared at a Senate rules committee hearing to oppose a campaign finance bill proposed by Democrats.
Yuri Gripas Reuters/Landov

Senate Democrats have rolled out this year's model of the DISCLOSE Act. Or, if you want to be more formal: the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act.

It's the third version of DISCLOSE since 2010. Broadly speaking, it would force donor disclosure on the big-money, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that are flourishing in post-Citizens United politics. Unlike almost all other players in an election campaign, 501(c)(4)s are not covered by the disclosure laws. Their donors are never publicly named.

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Politics
2:45 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Long GOP Primary Season Gives Democrats Time To Fill Campaign Coffers

Senate candidate Michelle Nunn of Georgia is one of several Democratic women making strong election bids.
Akili-Casundria Ramsess AP

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 9:31 am

Georgia Republicans picked their Senate nominee Tuesday night. Former corporate CEO David Perdue will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the November general election.

Nunn, the daughter of a popular former senator, is among several Democratic female candidates who are showing strength as the party tries to preserve its Senate majority. She's also considered a real contender to turn the Georgia seat Democratic.

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It's All Politics
5:01 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Interpreting The IRS Emails, Washington-Style

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., grills Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen as he testifies June 23 before the House Oversight Committee.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 5:25 pm

Here's the biggest recurring theme in the IRS controversy — the one about alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Throughout the yearlong investigation, congressional Republicans and Democrats have not only highlighted their own evidence but also taken the same evidence and drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.

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