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
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
5:55 am
Sat May 25, 2013

IRS Hearings Highlight Ambiguity Of Nonprofits In Politics

Originally published on Sat May 25, 2013 1:19 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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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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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
11:36 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
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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It's All Politics
5:48 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

After Tough 2012, Conservative Koch Brothers Regroup

David Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, attends an event at The Economic Club of New York last year.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 6:30 pm

The network of political groups headed by conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch spent millions of undisclosed dollars in last year's elections. Now, after failing to help Republicans win the White House or the Senate, the Koch brothers are re-examining the network, its goals and strategies.

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The Two-Way
1:27 pm
Mon February 25, 2013

Supreme Court Will Not Hear Campaign Finance Case On Corporate Donations

The Supreme Court denied the petition of businessmen who say the 2010 Citizens United ruling makes it legal for corporations to contribute directly to candidates. The court building is seen here during renovations in December.
Alex Wong Getty Images

The Supreme Court says it won't hear a case that would have let candidates solicit money from corporations. By doing so, the court is reaffirming one strict ban on corporate political money, three years ago after easing other limits in its controversial Citizens United ruling.

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It's All Politics
9:35 am
Sat February 23, 2013

Liberal Watchdog Group: 'Fix The Debt' Movement More Astroturf Than Grassroots

Originally published on Sat February 23, 2013 3:03 pm

The liberal watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy says Fix the Debt — a key unit in philanthropist Pete Peterson's corps of organizations to battle the national debt — is a pro-business effort masquerading as a grassroots movement.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, CMD director Lisa Graves called Fix the Debt "an Astroturf supergroup that is exceedingly well funded." The term "Astroturf" refers to groups that appear to be citizen-organized but actually have their roots at consultants' offices inside the Capital Beltway.

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It's All Politics
5:39 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Supreme Court Takes Case That Could Puncture A Key Campaign Cash Limit

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to campaign-finance laws that could open the door to further money in politics beyond what Citizens United achieved.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 6:48 pm

Barely three years after the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United ruling, which liberated corporations to spend freely in elections, the justices say they'll take up another campaign finance case — this time aiming at one of the limits on the "hard money" that goes directly to candidates and party committees.

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It's All Politics
4:39 pm
Mon February 18, 2013

How New Jersey's High-Flying Sen. Menendez Ran Into Turbulence

Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, shown in June, has come under scrutiny before, but has never been charged.
Mike Coppola Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 18, 2013 5:12 pm

These should be good times for Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

New Jersey voters re-elected him last fall in a landslide, and he became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few weeks ago. But along the way, Menendez has come under scrutiny by the Senate Ethics Committee and perhaps other government investigators — and certainly the media — for his connections to a longtime friend and generous campaign donor.

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