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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11:24am

Tue December 2, 2014
It's All Politics

Study: Campaign Cash Brings Tax Benefits On Capitol Hill

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 6:55 pm

J. Scott Applewhite AP

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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2:48am

Mon November 17, 2014
Politics

Top Spenders On Capitol Hill Pay Billions, Receive Trillions

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 2:24 pm

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

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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4:51pm

Thu November 6, 2014
The Two-Way

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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3:39am

Tue October 28, 2014
Politics

Money Mixes Up Missouri Circuit-Court Race

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 12:17 pm

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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3:23am

Mon October 20, 2014
Politics

This Political Ad Was Paid For By — Oh, Never Mind

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 5:42 pm

Among outside groups — that is, not candidates or party committees — more than half of this cycle's political ads are financed by secret donors.
iStockphoto

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."

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6:34pm

Wed September 24, 2014
Politics

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

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 10:12 am

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

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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3:24pm

Thu September 18, 2014
It's All Politics

Billionaire GOP Donor Finally Opens Checkbook For 2014

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 6:20 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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5:47pm

Mon September 15, 2014
It's All Politics

Tommy Boggs, Influential Lobbyist, Dies At 73

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 12:44 pm

Brian K. Diggs AP

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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2:15am

Mon September 1, 2014
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 10:02 am

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

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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5:34pm

Wed August 27, 2014
It's All Politics

Former Iowa Lawmaker Admits To Getting Payoff Before 2012 Caucuses

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 8:24 pm

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

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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11:57am

Wed August 13, 2014
It's All Politics

More Details Surface On Missing IRS Hard Drive

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 1:41 pm

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

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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3:15pm

Thu July 31, 2014
Politics

Facing A Mass-Mailing Deadline, Lawmakers Get Frank Fast

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 7:07 pm

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

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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6:05pm

Wed July 23, 2014
It's All Politics

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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3:45am

Wed July 23, 2014
Politics

Long GOP Primary Season Gives Democrats Time To Fill Campaign Coffers

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 10:31 am

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

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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6:25pm

Wed July 9, 2014
It's All Politics

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

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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