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
7:05 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
4:45 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 11:31 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
7:20 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 7:25 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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Politics
5:29 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Interest Groups Come Down On Opposite Sides Of Export-Import Bank

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 2:19 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's follow up on a story we heard about yesterday with the Republican Party's primary season winding down, the party establishment and Tea Party conservatives are shifting the focus of their fight. This time it's over a federal agency that helps to finance American companies in foreign trade. The legal authority for the Export-Import Bank expires in September. Small government conservatives are going all out to abolish it. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Politics
4:43 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

IRS Chief Tangles With Lawmakers Over Missing Emails

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:08 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. On Capitol Hill today, the House Ways & Means Committee drilled down on one question - what happened to Lois Lerner's e-mails? Lerner is the former official who was at the center of an IRS controversy last year. She oversaw agents who investigated advocacy groups and delayed the applications for tax except status. Conservatives say their groups were unfairly targeted. NPR's Peter Overby was at today's hearing, and he filed this report.

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It's All Politics
12:40 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Lost IRS Emails Spark Republican Ire

Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner speaks March 5 on Capitol Hill during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the the agency's targeting of Tea Party groups.
Lauren Victoria Burke AP

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 2:00 pm

With new technology came a new type of Washington scandal: missing emails.

In the latest instance, the vanished emails belonged to Lois Lerner, former head of the exempt organizations division at IRS. She's the official who oversaw the scrutiny of applicants for tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4) social welfare groups — a process that conservatives allege was meant to block Tea Party groups.

The controversy blew up just over a year ago. Lerner was pushed out of the IRS; the House cited her for contempt of Congress.

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It's All Politics
3:55 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Tract Issued By Theologians Takes On Money In Politics

Religious voices have entered the campaign finance debate, with a tract titled "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy."
jswinborne iStockphoto

In a newly issued report, a group of 11 theologians goes where the pols and lawyers dare not tread, with a faith-based analysis of money's role in politics. In "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy," published by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, you can guess where it comes down on the big questions.

The tract asserts that the current political money system — with superPACs, secretive social welfare organizations and unlimited contributions — "does not take into account the needs of the poor."

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It's All Politics
7:02 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

The Big Numbers Behind Eric Cantor's Failed Primary Bid

Following his defeat in the Virginia GOP primary Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tells reporters he intends to resign his leadership post at the end of July.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 8:05 pm

The big numbers are in from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary loss to Tea Party candidate David Brat.

First of all, the vote totals: 36,120 votes for Brat; 28,902 for Cantor.

Cash raised: Between the start of 2013 and May 21, 2014, Cantor raised $4.7 million. Brat raised a bit less than $207,000.

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The Salt
5:25 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Lobbyists Loom Behind The Scenes Of School Nutrition Fight

Patrick McCoy (right) and Harry Fowler of Schwan's Food Service show off their company's Big Daddy's pizza at the School Nutrition Association's national conference in Chicago in 2007.
Brian Kersey AP

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:01 pm

The School Nutrition Association — what you might call the national organization for lunch ladies (and gents) — says it was trying to improve the healthfulness of school lunches.

But it says the U.S. Agriculture Department didn't help when things got tough, so it went to Congress. House Republicans provided help, but they also put the group in the middle of a partisan battle over what to feed America's school students.

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Politics
5:08 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Outside Groups To Spend Even More Ahead Of Miss. GOP Senate Runoff

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 11:09 am

Well-heeled outside groups easily outspent Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel before the GOP Senate primary in Mississippi. They're going all in on the runoff election later this month.

It's All Politics
5:23 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Billionaire Environmentalist Targets 7 Statewide Races

Businessman Tom Steyer listens during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government in September 2013.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 7:59 pm

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has already pledged at least $50 million to his superPAC, NextGen Climate, and now the superPAC's leaders are laying out a hardball strategy for the fall campaign.

The goal: tag seven Republican candidates as "science deniers" who are on the wrong side of the increasingly urgent climate change issue.

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It's All Politics
5:57 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Obamacare Buried By Avalanche Of Negative Ads, Study Finds

A frame grab image from video provided by Americans for Prosperity shows a political ad against Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., stating the Affordable Care Act is not working.
AP

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 7:04 pm

It's been obvious ever since 2010 that Republicans and conservatives were spending a lot more slamming the Affordable Care Act than the Obama administration and Democrats were spending to defend it.

But 15 to 1?

Yes. That's the ratio calculated by Kantar Media's campaign media analysis group — CMAG to political junkies. Kantar estimates that national advertising against the ACA cost $418 million, compared with $27 million for ads supporting the law. Kantar calls the anti-ACA spending "unprecedented [and] largely unanswered."

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Politics
5:07 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Tea Party Stumbles As GOP Establishment Flexes Fundraising Strength

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 8:54 pm

Tea Party candidates did well in GOP primary elections in 2010 and 2012; this year, not so much. Part of this lack of success is because establishment candidates have generally out-raised them, and establishment-aligned outside groups are no longer reluctant to get involved in primaries.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Against 'Dark Money,' A Star Witness Speaks In Congress

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 6:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testified in a Senate hearing today on the surge of secret money in politics. Stevens retired from the court a few months after the Citizens United ruling in 2010. He had issued an emphatic dissent in the case, which allowed corporations and unions to spend without limits in campaigns.

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Politics
5:34 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Pay-To-Play Laws Celebrate 20th Anniversary

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during an April 17 news conference in New York.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 7:15 pm

While the Supreme Court this month took another step in freeing up big political donors, another set of federal restrictions on political money is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The so-called pay-to-play rules — enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission — are a narrow but powerful way to control political cash.

Think "pay to play" and you might think of video games or high school sports. But in politics, "pay to play" refers to something totally different — a particular kind of political corruption.

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It's All Politics
2:26 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Gingrich 2012 Campaign Still Owes $4.7 Million

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich waves after addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting in National Harbor, Md., on March 8.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 3:13 pm

Newt 2012, the presidential campaign vehicle for Newt Gingrich last time around, couldn't bag the Republican nomination for him.

And now, the former House speaker's committee still owes $4.7 million from the attempt.

The campaign tells the Federal Election Commission that its debt on April 1, 2014, was just $14,507 less than the amount owed on May 31, 2012 — the month Gingrich officially suspended his White House bid.

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Politics
4:08 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Pursuing IRS Controversy, House GOP Pivots Toward Crossroads

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 6:48 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have voted to seek the criminal prosecution of former IRS official Lois Lerner. They allege that she violated several laws as the tax agency grappled with conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. The vote also marked a sharp turn in Republican strategy in the year-long controversy.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Politics
7:59 am
Sat March 29, 2014

Activists Push Public Financing Of N.Y. Political Campaigns

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 11:27 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a new ruling as early as next week that could undo existing limits on regulating political money. But on the other hand, a coalition of liberal groups has started pushing for the public finance of elections. They essentially want to give money to candidates so they don't have to chase big donors. And the current fight is going on in New York's state capitol, Albany. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Politics
3:15 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Say Goodbye To The Taxpayer-Funded Political Convention

Ever since the Watergate era, taxpayers have been able to check a box on their federal tax returns and designate a little bit of their tax payment to help finance the presidential campaigns and wean politicians away from big donors.

The public financing program has had its ups and downs. But now President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that, for the first time, takes taxpayer money out of the fund.

First of all, let's pause to reflect on some of the great moments of American political conventions brought to you by presidential matching funds.

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Politics
5:08 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Is Organizing For Action Too Close To The White House?

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 10:28 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Next we're going to unravel another potential political scandal. It involves a tax-exempt advocacy group with ties to President Obama. Organizing for Action is saying it broke its own rules against hooking up big donors with White House officials. Critics are unimpressed. NPR's Peter Overby breaks it down for us.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, OFA. Hey.

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It's All Politics
1:18 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

What's Holding Up Ukraine Aid Bill In Congress? Anger Over IRS

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. (from left), Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., met on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Mike Theiler UPI /Landov

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 1:38 pm

With members of the House and Senate scrapping over a Ukraine aid bill, Republicans say a magic bullet could break the logjam.

It has nothing to do with the former Soviet republic, its ability to withstand Russia's military intervention in Crimea, or this weekend's referendum in the Ukrainian territory.

It has everything to do with conservatives' fury at the IRS, which they say has waged a partisan, and unconstitutional, war against President Obama's opponents.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Outside Groups Lay Millions On Florida Special Election

Republican David Jolly thanks supporters during a campaign rally in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.
Steve Nesius AP

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 6:51 pm

The campaign for a congressional seat in St. Petersburg, Fla., will have seen some $10 million in spending by candidates and outside groups. Where did all of this money go?

Law
4:12 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Once Neglected, Secretaries Of State Step Into The Spotlight

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 7:58 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Control of Congress won't be the only big question in this fall's elections. A quieter but critical battle is being waged over state-level races for secretary of state. In most states, that's the official in charge of running elections. Elections have become a political lightning rod. Many conservatives rail against voter fraud and lax rules, liberals say that's voter suppression. And now, as NPR's Peter Overby reports, superPACs want to nationalize the fight over secretary of state.

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Politics
3:02 am
Thu February 13, 2014

'Citizens United' Critics Fight Money With Money

A woman signs a giant banner printed with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution during a demonstration against the Citizens United ruling in Washington in October 2010.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 11:19 am

It's been four years since the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling, the case that set the stage for unlimited and often undisclosed contribution money in federal elections. This year, the superPACs and social welfare organizations that use that money for attack ads are already at it, even as Republicans and Democrats are still choosing their candidates for the fall campaigns.

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It's All Politics
3:34 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Political Groups Aim Early Attacks At New Hampshire Senator

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in the U.S. Capitol building May 14, 2013. Groups are creating ads in New Hampshire to attack Shaheen 10 months before the midterm congressional elections.
Allison Shelley Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 7:32 am

Even with 10 months to go before the midterm congressional elections, some political and ideological groups are already on the air, attacking incumbents they hope to take down in November.

One race that's attracting early advertisers is in New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is seeking a second term, and two tax-exempt social welfare organizations are buying ads against her.

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Politics
4:16 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Remembering The Texans Who Made Attack Ads Nastier

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 6:18 pm

Texas Republican Harold Simmons, who died last weekend, was known for throwing millions of dollars into fiercely aggressive attack ads against Democrats. His death, along with that of Texas conservative Bob Perry earlier this year, signals the fading of the first wave of mega-donors in modern American politics.

Politics
9:04 am
Sat December 21, 2013

The Life Of A Lobbyist In A Do-Nothing Congress

After casting their final votes of a session in which few laws were passed, members of Congress leave for a five-week recess.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 4:00 pm

The 113th Congress has finished its first session, and lawmakers enacted fewer than 60 laws. No Congress since 1947 has done so little legislating.

That's bad news for many of Washington's lobbyists. Howard Marlowe, for one, hasn't been feeling the joy of his job.

"One of the driest periods in the 35 years that I've been lobbying," he says.

An old Washington hand, Marlowe has a small, boutique lobbying firm specializing in local infrastructure projects. His client base includes airports, shipping ports and local governments.

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It's All Politics
5:23 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Court Upholds Public Broadcasting Political Ad Ban

This image, provided by the Obama For America campaign, shows a still frame made from a video ad entitled "Only Choice."
Uncredited AP

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 5:48 pm

While lawyers dismantle many restrictions on political money, the rules affecting Morning Edition and Downton Abbey still stand tall. A federal court in San Francisco says public radio and TV stations cannot carry paid political ads.

The 8-3 decision Monday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling last April by a smaller panel of the court. NPR and PBS both joined the case as friends of the court.

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Politics
4:33 am
Fri November 22, 2013

FEC: Tea Party May Not Shield Donors

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 5:45 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene. The Federal Election Commission has turned back a bid by conservatives to weaken the federal campaign-finance disclosure law. A Tea Party group had asked for a precedent-changing decision to keep its donor lists secret. It said Tea Party members are being targeted for harassment and intimidation. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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It's All Politics
7:28 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

What A Bitcoin Political Debut Could Mean For Transparency

Bitcoins have gone from an Internet oddity to much more. The FEC is now considering allowing the virtual currency to fund some political campaigns.
Rick Bowmer AP

Bitcoin, the virtual currency that exists as alphanumeric strings online, is on the verge of getting into politics.

The Federal Election Commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to allow bitcoin contributions to political action committees — even as skeptics say that bitcoins could undermine the disclosure standards of federal law.

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