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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5:49pm

Wed July 25, 2012
Money & Politics

Part Of Romney's Foreign Itinerary: Raising Money

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 7:29 pm

A campaign sticker for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen on a sign for Romney Street in London on Wednesday, as Romney arrived to meet with leaders, hold fundraisers and attend the opening of the Olympics.
Charles Dharapak AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on a weeklong trip in which he's scheduled to meet with three prime ministers, give two speeches and attend the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. On a more practical level, he'll also raise some campaign cash.

This trip is designed to highlight how Romney would fix the failings he sees in President Obama's foreign policy.

Romney opened his attack Tuesday while still in the U.S. In an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., he lit into the Obama administration's relationship with Israel.

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6:04am

Sat July 21, 2012
Mitt Romney

Romney Sprints Ahead In Race For Cash

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 3:25 pm

Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event in Bow, N.H., Friday. The campaigns have released their monthly financial reports, with Romney showing an advantage over President Obama.
Charles Dharapak AP

The presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney surged ahead of President Obama last month in fundraising efforts. While Obama continued to get more money from small donors, those who give $200 or less, Romney showed new strength there. Also, big donors have enabled Romney to quickly build a strong cash reserve.

At first glance, it seems that Obama has a nice cushion of cash. Obama for America, his campaign committee, reported almost $98 million cash-on-hand, compared to less than $23 million in the kitty at Romney for President.

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5:31pm

Mon July 16, 2012
Money & Politics

New Romney Fund Highlights Fundraising Muscle

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 3:30 pm

Mitt Romney arrives at the Utah Olympic Park for a private dinner during a donor's conference in Park City, Utah, on June 22.
Charles Dharapak AP

Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign says a recently formed arm of the organization collected more than $10 million a week during a three-month period this spring. And most of the money care from high-end donors.

Romney Victory Inc., got its first four contributions on April 6 — three donations of $50,000 each and one check for $350. Since early April, it's pulled in $140 million.

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3:14am

Tue July 10, 2012
It's All Politics

Democrats Say Anonymous Donors Unfairly Influencing Senate Races

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 12:25 pm

Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

In Senate races, Democrats are fighting to preserve their thin majority. Their party campaign committee wants the Federal Election Commission to crack down on some of the Republicans' wealthiest allies — outside money groups that are using anonymous contributions to finance a multimillion-dollar onslaught of attack ads.

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12:17pm

Mon June 25, 2012
It's All Politics

Supreme Court Says Montana Cannot Ignore Citizens United Ruling

Originally published on Mon June 25, 2012 12:51 pm

Citizens United applies to Montana law." href="/post/supreme-court-says-montana-cannot-ignore-citizens-united-ruling" class="noexit lightbox">
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock sought to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down a state law restricting corporate campaign spending. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Bullock's argument, holding that "there can be no serious doubt" that Citizens United applies to Montana law.
Matthew Brown AP

The state of Montana has lost a closely watched bid to challenge Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations deploy their money to help or attack specific candidates.

Citizens United dramatically loosened the restraints on corporate involvement in political campaigns. It also set strict new limits on what's considered "corruption or the appearance of corruption" when it comes to restricting money in politics.

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3:09am

Tue June 19, 2012
Politics

A Fine Line: Distinguishing Issue Ads From Advocacy

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 9:48 am

7:05am

Mon June 18, 2012
Politics

Sen. McConnell: Political Donations Are Free Speech

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 8:11 am

Sunday was the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in — the opening act in a wide-ranging, White House scandal that was fueled by secret campaign money. Last week, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it's time to roll back the Watergate-era requirement for public disclosure of campaign donors. He accused President Obama and liberals of trying to stifle the First Amendment rights of conservative donors.

7:48am

Sat June 16, 2012
Politics

McConnell Argues Against Requiring Donor Disclosure

Friday Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it's time to roll back the Watergate-era requirement for public disclosure of campaign donors. He accused President Obama and liberals of trying to stifle the First Amendment rights of conservative donors.

5:54pm

Thu June 7, 2012
It's All Politics

There's More Secret Money In Politics; Justice Kennedy Might Be Surprised

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 6:39 pm

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Citizens United opinion saying that corporations can pay for ads expressly promoting or attacking political candidates.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Federal election law has required the public disclosure of campaign donors for nearly 40 years.

But this year, outside groups are playing a powerful role in the presidential election. And some of them disclose nothing about their donors. That's despite what the Supreme Court said in its controversial Citizens United ruling two years ago.

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6:02pm

Fri June 1, 2012
Money & Politics

Why Political Ads In 2012 May All Look Alike

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 6:48 pm

Screen grabs of four separate ads from four different political groups critical of President Obama's handling of Solyndra, the failed solar-panel maker. Clockwise from top left, the ads are from: Americans for Prosperity, MittRomney.com, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

Among the biggest advertisers in the presidential campaign is a group that says it doesn't do political advertising: Crossroads GPS.

Crossroads GPS — which stands for Grassroots Policy Strategies — was co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove. It and others like it enable wealthy donors to finance attack ads while avoiding the public identification they would face if they gave to more overtly political committees.

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5:49am

Mon May 28, 2012
Election 2012

For A Billionaire, $2M Gets You Superdonor Status

Originally published on Mon May 28, 2012 10:25 am

Bill Koch (center) celebrates his team's 1992 America's Cup win. Koch, the brother of billionaire GOP donors Charles and David, has given $2 million to the superPAC backing Mitt Romney.
Vince Bucci AFP/Getty Images

In the world of high-dollar politics, the billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch are famous for their lavish funding of conservative politicians and causes. But there's another Koch brother — William — who is passionate about many things, but only recently about politics.

Bill Koch is an avid yachtsman, and he set out to win the 1992 America's Cup. It would take four boats, more than 260 team members and single-minded determination.

David Rosow was the team's business manager and is a longtime friend of Koch's.

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2:35am

Mon May 21, 2012
Election 2012

Secret Donors Still Find Ways To Remain Anonymous

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 11:00 am

The latest deadline for the presidential candidates and the major superPACs to disclose their finances was Sunday night. The public and the media can find out who has been giving to the candidates, and how that money was spent. But there's a lot of political spending that isn't being reported.

Outside money groups are spending millions of dollars, and the donors remain anonymous. Two recent court rulings could force those groups to file public disclosures, but there already seems to be a way around that.

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6:47am

Wed May 16, 2012
Law

Appeals Court Moves Toward Identifying Donors

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. So that's the budget money. Let's talk about political contributions. The laws governing political money have just become a little bit more convoluted. But this time, the new twist could actually mean more disclosure. We'd find out the names of the big donors who finance attack ads.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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5:14pm

Thu May 3, 2012
It's All Politics

Do Campaign Ads Seem More Negative This Year? It's Not Just You

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:43 am

If you thought the presidential primaries were extraordinarily negative, now there's statistical evidence that you were right.

A new analysis of TV ads finds that 70 percent of the messages were negative — a trend spearheaded by the heavily financed superPACs supporting the candidates. At this point in the 2008 election, 91 percent of TV ads were positive.

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3:05am

Thu May 3, 2012
Presidential Race

Gingrich Out Of The Race, But Still In Debt

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 11:42 am

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pauses while announcing that he is suspending his presidential campaign Wednesday in Arlington, Va.
Evan Vucci AP

Newt Gingrich is officially out of the presidential race. The former House speaker said Wednesday that he's suspending his campaign, and he's ready to help the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, battle President Obama. But Gingrich might have a more pressing problem: His campaign has about $4 million in debt.

In Gingrich's exit speech, he opened by thanking people — first his family, then his financial backers.

"I also want to single out, first of all, the over 179,000 donors who helped us at Newt.org and who helped make the campaign possible," he said.

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3:32am

Mon April 30, 2012
Election 2012

Romney's Big-Dollar 'Bundlers' Stay Anonymous

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 10:07 am

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters in Aston, Pa., on April 23.
Jessica Kourkounis Getty Images

Every presidential nominee going back to 2000 has revealed the names of influential supporters known as "bundlers" because of the way they persuade others to give money to a candidate. Every nominee, that is, until Mitt Romney.

The most anyone can give directly to any presidential campaign is $5,000, and everyone who gives that much is listed in the Romney campaign's monthly disclosures.

When it comes to the bundlers, though, the campaign chooses to keep those names secret.

Voluntary Disclosure

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5:02pm

Tue April 24, 2012
It's All Politics

As The Campaign Hits Cruising Altitude, Critics Again Target Presidential Travel

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 5:37 pm

President Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, en route to Florida, on April 10. Whenever a president runs for re-election, his travel tends to become a political issue.
Cliff Owen AP

The White House has been fielding questions lately about President Obama's travel — what's official, what's political and whether taxpayers are getting stuck with the bill. It's the same issue that rolls around every time a president runs for re-election.

Take President Obama's trip to Florida earlier this month. It featured an official presidential speech on the economy at Florida Atlantic University. On the same trip, the president hit two fundraisers.

How do you sort that out?

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6:36am

Mon April 23, 2012
Politics

Charity Status Of Conservative Group Challenged

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Opponents have intensified a campaign against a group that drafts and promotes bills for state lawmakers to enact. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, says it stands for limited government, free markets and federalism. The corporate-funded group has promoted much debated ideas - from voter ID rules to stand your ground gun laws.

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4:31pm

Fri April 20, 2012
It's All Politics

Presidential Fundraising Numbers Poised To Skyrocket

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 5:11 pm

The latest financial numbers are coming out Friday from the campaigns of President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — along with the superPACs that love them.

First, the easy numbers: $53 million was raised in March to re-elect Obama and $12.6 million was raised by the Romney campaign to win the Republican primaries.

But those easy numbers don't give a complete picture.

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4:33pm

Thu April 19, 2012
Politics

Conservative Group Criticized For Tax-Exempt Status

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 6:34 pm

Yum Brands, the company that owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, says it's the latest corporation to break ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council — a group that brings state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists together to write legislation.

Liberal groups are pressuring corporations to abandon ALEC, and a dozen companies have now dropped out.

This week, ALEC did some damage control. It said it is shutting down its task force on public safety and elections, which wrote controversial measures on voter ID, "stand your ground" and immigration reform.

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3:31am

Thu April 5, 2012
Governing

Boycotts Hitting Group Behind 'Stand Your Ground'

Originally published on Thu April 5, 2012 10:37 am

Selina Gray of Sanford, Fla., shows her sign at a rally protesting the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Authorities have cited the state's "stand your ground" law as a reason charges have not been filed in Martin's death.
Julie Fletcher AP

Two of America's best-known companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have dropped their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a low-profile conservative organization behind the national proliferation of "stand your ground" gun laws.

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4:00am

Tue March 27, 2012
Around the Nation

Koch Brothers Move To Control Cato Institute

Libertarians say it's like watching dear friends in an ugly divorce, as the billionaire Koch brothers try to take control of the highly regarded Cato Institute. The head of Cato says the Kochs are out to politicize the think tank.

4:44am

Wed March 21, 2012
Money & Politics

Romney, SuperPAC Outspend Rivals Combined

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 10:23 am

As Mitt Romney decisively won the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday night, financial reports filed at the Federal Election Commission showed that Romney and a superPAC supporting him yet again spent more than all of his GOP opponents combined.

The reports cover the month of February, which started with Romney's win in Nevada and ended with contests in Michigan and Arizona, which the former Massachusetts governor also won.

In between, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took three smaller states.

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3:41am

Tue March 20, 2012
Election 2012

For A Personal Cause, Casino Owner Bets On Gingrich

Originally published on Sun March 25, 2012 9:05 am

Sheldon Adelson speaks at the 2008 "Facing Tomorrow" Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
David Silverman Getty Images

One of the defining elements of the 2012 presidential campaign is money. Not that the candidates themselves have raised all that much; except for President Obama, they haven't. But two dozen wealthy Americans have put in at least $1 million each.

Mostly, they're a mix of Wall Street financiers and entrepreneurs. One of the biggest donors is Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who is worth about $25 billion.

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12:01am

Tue March 13, 2012
Money & Politics

Low-Profile SuperPAC Targets Powerful Incumbents

The superPAC Campaign for Primary Accountability is taking aim at Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus and other congressional incumbents.
YouTube

6:05pm

Wed March 7, 2012
Money & Politics

Pro-Romney SuperPAC Spent Big On Super Tuesday

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 10:39 am

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at a town hall meeting in Bexley, Ohio, last month. Romney won Ohio by less than 1 percent in Tuesday's primary.
Gerald Herbert AP

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's six primary wins on Super Tuesday didn't come cheap. An NPR analysis shows that last week alone, the Romney campaign and the pro-Romney superPAC combined spent nearly $7 million on TV ads.

Less than $1 million of that was spent by Romney's official campaign, while the pro-Romney superPAC Restore Our Future — which has almost exclusively engaged in negative advertising this year — spent $5.7 million.

That's compared to $220,000 spent on ads last week by the superPAC supporting former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

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12:01am

Tue March 6, 2012
Mitt Romney

Romney's Wins Have Come With Negative Messages

Originally published on Tue March 6, 2012 12:13 pm

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters at a town hall meeting at Taylor Winfield in Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday.
Gerald Herbert AP

It's Super Tuesday for the Republican presidential contenders, and 10 states are holding primaries and caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hopes he can firm up his front-runner status — a status that, an NPR analysis shows, has so far involved his campaign and a pro-Romney superPAC burying the opposition with negative messages.

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12:01am

Tue February 21, 2012
Election 2012

Romney Outspends GOP Field Combined In January

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 6:15 pm

The financial battle for the Republican nomination is tightening. Candidates spent a lot of cash in January — what with contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Also spending a lot of money, as it turns out, were the richly financed superPACS that support the candidates.

Reports filed at the Federal Election Commission on Monday night show just how important a superPAC can be.

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12:01am

Fri February 17, 2012
Money & Politics

White House And SuperPAC: How Close Is Too Close?

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 9:34 am

Bill Burton, shown during a news briefing at the White House in January, is now with pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA Action. He says the superPAC is "careful to make sure that we are in compliance with the rules."
J. Scott Applewhite AP

President Obama's decision to have White House officials and Cabinet secretaries help raise money for a pro-Obama superPAC is raising questions.

The superPAC, Priorities USA Action — which is supposed to be independent of the president's re-election campaign — is launching a new effort to bring in six- and seven-figure contributions.

By law, it cannot coordinate its messaging with Obama's re-election campaign committee. But coordinating other things? That's possible.

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12:01am

Thu February 9, 2012
Presidential Race

Powerful GOP-Linked SuperPAC Has Clear Agenda

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 9:00 am

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