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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3:47am

Fri November 8, 2013
Politics

Outside Money Plays Big Role In Va. Race For Governor

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 9:17 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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4:03am

Wed November 6, 2013
NPR News Investigations

Secret Persuasion: How Big Campaign Donors Stay Anonymous

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 3:48 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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4:08am

Tue November 5, 2013
NPR News Investigations

From Social Welfare Groups, A River Of Political Influence

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 10:38 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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3:23pm

Thu October 24, 2013
Politics

Outside Political Money Floods Virginia Races

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 5:25 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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4:39pm

Fri October 18, 2013
Politics

Money For Dam Project In Shutdown Deal Riles Conservatives

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 9:09 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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5:12pm

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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10:25am

Thu October 10, 2013
It's All Politics

Koch Industries Pushes Back Against Harry Reid

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 1:26 pm

David Koch addresses attendees of the Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 30.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Most business interests would do anything to avoid a public fight with the most powerful man in the Senate.

Not Koch Industries.

The privately owned conglomerate of conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch is busy trading volleys with Majority Leader Harry Reid in the battle over the Affordable Care Act and the government shutdown.

What's unusual here is the word trading. It wasn't so many years ago that the Koch brothers and their company would have said nothing, just absorbed political slams without comment.

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4:55am

Sat May 25, 2013
Politics

IRS Hearings Highlight Ambiguity Of Nonprofits In Politics

Originally published on Sat May 25, 2013 12:19 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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3:38am

Thu May 23, 2013
Politics

IRS Official's Silence Riles House Committee Members

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 11:54 am

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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8:29am

Wed May 22, 2013
Politics

Battle Lines Harden In Debate Over Blame For IRS Controversy

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Lawmakers are demanding to know what went wrong and who is to blame at the IRS. Two Senate committees held hearings yesterday on the agency's aggressive handling of applications from conservative groups who were seeking tax-exemption. A top IRS official facing a House committee, today, intends to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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4:45pm

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 6:24 pm

4:23pm

Fri May 10, 2013
Governing

After Targeting Conservative Groups, IRS Apologizes

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 6:23 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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2:24am

Fri May 3, 2013
It's All Politics

Why Lobbying Is Now Increasingly In The Shadows

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 11:14 am

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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10:36am

Fri April 26, 2013
It's All Politics

FEC: DOMA Limits Political Donations By Gay Married Couples

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 2:46 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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6:50pm

Tue April 23, 2013
It's All Politics

Bill Would Expand Disclosure Of Political Money

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 9:56 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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