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
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
1:38 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

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
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
5:08 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
6:57 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

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 7:28 pm

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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It's All Politics
5:42 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Obama Donor Behind Third-Party Va. Candidate? Maybe Not

Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, speaks with the news media after casting his ballot in Nokesville, Va., on Tuesday.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 7:42 pm

This week's hot rumor in Virginia: Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis was a spoiler, bankrolled by an Obama bundler from Texas, to undercut Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

On Election Day, Sarvis captured nearly 7 percent of the vote in a race Cuccinelli lost by less than 3 percentage points to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

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Politics
4:47 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Outside Money Plays Big Role In Va. Race For Governor

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 10:17 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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NPR News Investigations
5:26 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Secret Persuasion: How Big Campaign Donors Stay Anonymous

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

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 4:48 pm

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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NPR News Investigations
5:20 am
Tue November 5, 2013

From Social Welfare Groups, A River Of Political Influence

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

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 11:38 am

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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Politics
4:23 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Outside Political Money Floods Virginia Races

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 6:25 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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Politics
5:39 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Money For Dam Project In Shutdown Deal Riles Conservatives

The Olmsted Locks and Dam project is under construction on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 10:09 pm

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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The Government Shutdown
5:57 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Why A Medical Device Tax Became Part Of The Fiscal Fight

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 6:12 pm

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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It's All Politics
11:25 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Koch Industries Pushes Back Against Harry Reid

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

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 2:26 pm

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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Politics
4:38 am
Thu May 23, 2013

IRS Official's Silence Riles House Committee Members

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 12:54 pm

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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Law
5:43 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

IRS Inspector General To Review Handling Of Conservative Groups

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Inspector general from the Treasury Department says his office will review the ways the IRS enforces a critical law on political money. He spoke today at a Capitol Hill hearing.

There, senators questioned two former chiefs of the IRS on the agency's aggressive scrutiny of conservative groups that had applied for tax-exempt status. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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It's All Politics
6:01 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Some Lawmakers Want Big-Budget Groups Included In IRS Debate

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 7:24 pm

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Governing
5:45 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

After Targeting Conservative Groups, IRS Apologizes

Originally published on Fri May 10, 2013 7:23 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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It's All Politics
3:24 am
Fri May 3, 2013

Why Lobbying Is Now Increasingly In The Shadows

The lobbying industry in Washington is becoming more secretive.
Bill Ingalls/NASA Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 12:14 pm

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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It's All Politics
11:15 am
Fri April 26, 2013

FEC: DOMA Limits Political Donations By Gay Married Couples

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

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 3:46 pm

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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It's All Politics
7:33 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Bill Would Expand Disclosure Of Political Money

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

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 10:56 am

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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It's All Politics
12:51 pm
Sat March 30, 2013

IRS To 'Social Welfare' Groups: Show Me The Political Ad Money

Sen. Carl Levin has been a vocal advocate for transparency in political ad spending.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Sat March 30, 2013 3:07 pm

There are still unanswered questions about the politically active 501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups. The anonymously funded entities' multimillion-dollar ad budgets helped to clog the airwaves last year.

How much did they really spend to intervene in the 2012 campaign? What kinds of sources supplied their money? What ties do they maintain with other nonprofit organizations or for-profit companies?

The IRS is now trying to address some of the unknowns by asking organizations to fill out a questionnaire about their finances.

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It's All Politics
2:23 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Thieves Target Political Ad Consultants On New FCC Site

A woman views a Mitt Romney campaign ad in September, a month after the launch of an online government database that is supposed to make it easier for the public to see what political ads air in big markets, and how much is spent on them.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 2:41 pm

Poke into the obscure corners of the Federal Communications Commission's website, and you can find one of the deepest disclosures in campaign finance.

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It's All Politics
9:51 pm
Sun March 10, 2013

For Some Conservatives, It's Homecoming Week

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., last year.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 7:23 am

The American conservative movement has its homecoming this week: the Conservative Political Action Conference, where everyone from politicians to peddlers is out to inspire the faithful.

Last year, one of the headline speakers was former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who harked back to the second-ever CPAC in 1975, when Ronald Reagan laid out a vision for a conservative Republican Party.

She invoked his image of a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels.

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