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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6:26pm

Tue February 7, 2012
Election 2012

Obama Changes Tone On SuperPACS, Endorses Own

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 6:31 pm

As a candidate and as president, Barack Obama has disparaged the role of big money in politics. At his 2010 State of the Union address, he even called out the Supreme Court for a ruling that opened the door to unlimited personal and business contributions. But, faced with a Republican opposition that's raising millions from a handful of sources, President Obama let his fundraisers loose to play the game too.

5:08pm

Thu January 26, 2012
Presidential Race

Gingrich Fights Against The Lobbyist Label

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 6:27 pm

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks Thursday during a Lakeside Inn Tea Party rally in Mount Dora, Fla.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fend off accusations that he should wear the scarlet "L" — for "lobbyist." This week, he released two of his consulting contracts and said they didn't call for any lobbying.

Like many other former lawmakers, Gingrich was advocating for paying clients, while not officially registering as a lobbyist.

The two contracts disclosed this week came from Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant. Between 1999 and 2007, Freddie Mac paid his firm $1.6 million.

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6:04pm

Tue January 24, 2012
Presidential Race

Gingrich Campaign Rides A Financial Roller Coaster

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 7:43 pm

Casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, at the Marina Bay Sands complex in Singapore in June. The Adelsons have donated $5 million each to the pro-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future.
Roslan Rahman AFP/Getty Images

Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign celebrated his win in the South Carolina Republican primary with a so-called money bomb, a fundraising push to raise as much as possible.

It was a success. But its importance also shows the precarious financial state of Gingrich's campaign.

Spokesman R.C. Hammond says the campaign first set a target of $1 million, then doubled it and met it, all within 48 hours.

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4:00am

Fri January 20, 2012
Politics

As 'Citizens United' Turns 2, SuperPACs Draw Protests

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 1:28 pm

Dozens of televisions display a political advertisement with the image of GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich at a store in Urbandale, Iowa, on Dec. 27. Republican candidates and their superPACs have spent millions on television and radio ads.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Saturday is South Carolina's Republican presidential primary. It's also the second anniversary of the Supreme Court's famous Citizens United decision.

That's the case that allows corporations to explicitly support or attack specific candidates. The day will be marked with attack ads — and protests.

The Republican presidential race has covered just three states so far. And superPACs linked to candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have spent a total of $20 million. They're feeding voters a heavy diet of negativity.

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12:01am

Tue January 10, 2012
It's All Politics

$5M Check From Casino Magnate Gives Gingrich Boost

The South Carolina primary is a week from Saturday. Before then, voters there can expect to be inundated with ads attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his role in Bain Capital.

"We made a $3.4 million ad buy in South Carolina, which is fairly significant," says Rick Tyler, senior adviser to the pro-Newt Gingrich SuperPAC Winning Our Future.

"Fairly significant" hardly does justice to the SuperPAC's plan.

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3:00pm

Fri January 6, 2012
Election 2012

SuperPACs, Candidates: Dancing Solo Or Together?

Originally published on Fri January 6, 2012 6:54 pm

This is the season of the presidential superPACs: They flooded Iowa with attack ads, and now they are looking ahead to primaries in South Carolina and Florida.

SuperPACs (political action committees) can solicit big, corporate contributions — something candidates can't do. And, according to the law, superPACs are barred from coordinating their ads with the candidates they support. But it's not nearly that simple.

A SuperPAC Attacks

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12:01am

Thu January 5, 2012
Election 2012

Attacking Super PACs Fueled By Anonymous Donors

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 8:23 am

A screen grab from an anti-Newt Gingrich ad from the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.
Restore Our Future, Inc.

3:54pm

Thu December 22, 2011
Politics

Future Dim For 100-Watt Bulb, Despite Congress' Stall

The trillion-dollar budget bill that Congress passed last weekend includes plenty of non-spending provisions tucked into it. One of these so-called riders is aimed at saving the 100-watt incandescent light bulb.

But the move is more about politics than light.

Strictly speaking, the issue is this: Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs waste a lot of energy. So under federal law, they're being slowly phased out. The first to go, starting on New Year's Day, is the 100-watt bulb.

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5:08pm

Wed December 14, 2011
Politics

Report: Wealthy 'Elite Donors' Fueling U.S. Politics

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 9:10 pm

A report released by the Sunlight Foundation finds that in the 2010 midterm elections, 26,783 donors nationwide gave more than $10,000 each.
iStockphoto.com

A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.

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1:27pm

Mon December 5, 2011
Newt Gingrich

Gingrich's Health Care Consultancy: Is It Lobbying?

Originally published on Mon December 5, 2011 7:27 pm

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, shown at an event on health care on Capitol Hill this March, founded the Center for Health Transformation.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

In between his speakership and his presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich built a network of organizations to promote his causes — and himself.

Informally known as Newt Gingrich Inc., those entities have flourished. But questions linger, especially about two of them: the Gingrich Group, a for-profit consulting firm; and a unit of the Gingrich Group called the Center for Health Transformation.

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1:25pm

Wed November 23, 2011
Governing

Defense Workers Lobby To Prevent Automatic Cuts

Originally published on Wed November 23, 2011 6:53 pm

U.S. Army mine-resistant armored vehicles (MRAPs) and Afghan National Army vehicles pass through a village during a joint patrol in the Jalrez Valley in Afghanistan's Wardak province. On Monday, factory workers who produce MRAPs in York, Pa., rallied to protect the Pentagon budget against the automatic budget cuts that will take effect in 2013.
Maya Alleruzzo AP

The supercommittee's failure puts in motion automatic budget cuts for the Pentagon of $600 billion — a process called sequestration. On Monday, even before the supercommittee flamed out, defense workers in York, Pa., rallied to protect the Pentagon budget and perhaps their own jobs.

The local congressman, Republican Todd Platts, spoke to the workers and said that Republicans and Democrats in Congress should also do their work as Americans.

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12:01am

Wed November 16, 2011
It's All Politics

Illegal During Watergate, Unlimited Campaign Contributions Now Fair Game

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 4:23 pm

President Richard Nixon faced television cameras in the Oval Office on April 30, 1973 to announce the departure of his two closest assistants in the deepening Watergate scandal.
CBS AP

The 2012 presidential campaign is already being shaped by new rules for political money. The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling allows corporations to jump into the presidential contest, as lower-court rulings and the Federal Election Commission provide new avenues through which corporate money can flow.

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5:27pm

Tue November 15, 2011
Newt Gingrich

Why Did Freddie Mac Pay Newt Gingrich $300,000?

Polls continue to show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich solidly in the top tier of Republican presidential contenders. But at the same time, he is dogged by questions about a job he had after leaving Congress: consulting for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac — but not, he says, lobbying.

The questions began at the candidates' debate in Michigan last Wednesday, when CNBC's John Harwood asked Gingrich what he did for a $300,000 contract with Freddie Mac in 2006.

"I offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do," Gingrich said last week.

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4:00am

Thu November 10, 2011
NPR Story

Emails: Solyndra Supporter Pushed White House For Loan

House Republicans have released emails related to solar panel maker Solyndra which got $535 million in government loan guarantees and then went bankrupt. Republicans say the emails show an Obama campaign bundler used his influence at the White House to make the loan happen.

4:51am

Wed November 2, 2011
Election 2012

Nonprofit Seeks To Be New Political Force

If you want to know just how unhappy Americans are with their two-party government, a group called Americans Elect is ready to tell you.

The nonprofit group has scheduled a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday in a bid to show the Democratic and Republican establishments that voters want a third choice in presidential candidates.

It's a choice Americans Elect hopes to provide. This might sound like a third political party taking the field, but the group says that's not what it is.

'A New Force'

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2:02pm

Thu October 27, 2011
Politics

More Corporations Shed Light On Political Spending

UPS was among the top scorers in a new index ranking companies on political transparency and accountability.

Justin Sullivan Getty Images

For the first time, 100 of America's biggest corporations are being rated on the transparency of their political activities.

On Friday, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability will release an index that ranks the S&P 100 companies. The rankings come as politicians employ new loopholes — and the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision — to solicit secret, million-dollar contributions from corporate donors.

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8:00am

Sat October 22, 2011
Around the Nation

Occupy D.C. Learns To Like The Tea Party

Originally published on Sat October 22, 2011 11:49 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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5:37pm

Mon October 17, 2011
Presidential Race

Interactive: 2012 Campaign Cash, Week By Week

Texas Gov. Rick Perry saw his fundraising numbers plummet after his September debate performances.

Jeff Swensen Getty Images

The latest batch of campaign finance reports adds a little clarity to the presidential race. For starters, President Obama's campaign reported a hefty $61 million on hand as of Sept. 30. But in the Republican primary race, things are in flux.

Five states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida — are trying to squeeze their contests into January. They all hope to boost their influence on the outcome.

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12:01am

Mon October 17, 2011
Election 2012

Financial Reports Shed Little Light On GOP Race

So far in the Republican presidential contest, the poll numbers have been continually changing, with candidates moving up and then down again. The primary dates are also in flux, with at least four states moving theirs up to January to try to influence the outcome. But there's another set of numbers to watch: the candidates' fundraising totals.

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11:40am

Thu October 6, 2011
It's All Politics

With Christie Out, His Moneymen Go Shopping For A New Candidate

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 11:57 am

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turns to leave a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton on Tuesday after he announced that he will not run for president in 2012.

Mel Evans AP

With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (once again) declining to enter the Republican presidential primary race, his core group of financial industry fundraisers – a group that had been urging him to run – went looking for new candidates to endorse.

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12:00pm

Wed October 5, 2011
It's All Politics

Rick Perry Raised $17 Million In Partial 3rd Qtr After Entering GOP Race Late

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's poll number may be sagging, but his campaign is flush with cash. Perry's campaign says it raised more than $17 million in the third quarter.

Perry entered the Republican presidential primary race in mid August with just 49 days left before the quarterly filing deadline. But in that short time he's shot to the top of the money race.

His $17 million haul likely outdoes front-runner Mitt Romney's efforts over the summer. Meanwhile, Perry's campaign says it's kept spending so low that it has $15 million cash on hand.

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4:15pm

Thu September 15, 2011
Rick Perry

Perry Donor's Radioactive Waste Site Deal Scrutinized

Originally published on Thu September 15, 2011 9:39 pm

A large earth-mover carries PCB-contaminated soil from the Hudson River in New York to a burial pit at Waste Control Specialists near Andrews, Texas, in October 2009.
Betsy Blaney AP

Presidential candidate Rick Perry's ties to campaign donors came under more scrutiny this week when he was challenged during Monday's Tea Party debate.

Perry defended taking a contribution from a drug company and then mandating use of the company's new vaccine. "I raised about $30 million, and if you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended," he said.

Actually, the drug company, Merck, has given Perry $28,500 overall. But that's still pocket change compared with what Perry's truly big donors have given.

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6:48am

Mon September 5, 2011
Politics

Labor's Political Clout Faces Growing Challenges

Unions are under siege, as Republican governors have curtailed collective bargaining rights in some states. As well, national labor leaders say President Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington have let them down.

3:38pm

Sat September 3, 2011
Politics

Restrictions On SuperPACs Not Super Clear

Consultants have been practically tripping over each other to launch superPACs backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry. However, some prospective donors may find presidential superPACs are a gray area.

By now there's a superPAC independently supporting every major presidential candidate. Three of these groups have surfaced to promote Perry. In California, Bob Schuman says he was ready to go before Perry was.

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12:07pm

Thu August 25, 2011
Politics

In Summer Of Angry Voters, Whither The Town Hall?

For members of Congress, August can be a time to reconnect with voters back home. One favorite way to do so has been the town hall meeting.

But this year, with voters angrier than ever, many lawmakers are choosing not to hold those meetings.

In Minnesota, one Republican freshman is trying to navigate his district's political currents.

'I Will Do My Best'

When he was running for Congress last year, Chip Cravaack told the same story, over and over, about how a town hall meeting — or the lack of one — had gotten him into politics.

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12:01am

Wed August 17, 2011
Politics

Supercommittee At Risk With Campaign Donors

The 12 lawmakers on the new deficit-cutting supercommittee have their hands full. They're under orders to bring Congress a plan for cutting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars, and to do it before Thanksgiving.

At the same time, they're also raising funds for their next campaigns, and that could be a problem if the supercommittee is under pressure to bite the hand that feeds them money.

Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that concerns about supercommittee members and their fundraising are silly.

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5:59pm

Wed July 20, 2011
Politics

The Money Race: How The Candidates Stack Up

Originally published on Wed August 24, 2011 11:50 am

At first glance, the presidential candidates' quarterly financial reports reveal three winners.

President Obama's fundraising operation outperformed all of the Republican campaigns combined. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised four times as much as the next closest Republican, Rep. Ron Paul. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, despite not announcing officially until mid-June, swept in enough money to startle rivals who had been in the race much longer.

But look deeper, and the picture gets more complicated, especially among the Republicans.

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3:00pm

Wed July 20, 2011
Space

Congressional Support Impacts How NASA Spends

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: When the shuttle Atlantis makes its final orbits of the Earth tonight, it's carrying four astronauts, some trash from the space station, and a load of congressional politics.

As NPR's Peter Overby reports, Capitol Hill has always been deeply involved in NASA's activities, and sometimes seem to regard NASA as a jobs program, as well as a space program.

PETER OVERBY: Before Atlantis went up on this final flight, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the future of NASA. Among the witnesses...

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3:00pm

Wed July 13, 2011
Politics

Obama Raises $86 Million For Re-Election

President Obama raised a whopping $86 million in the last quarter for his re-election committee and the national Democratic Party.

5:18pm

Thu June 30, 2011
Politics

There's Nothing Funny About Colbert's SuperPAC

On Thursday, the Federal Election Commission gave comedian Stephen Colbert the OK to form a superPAC.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Show-biz celebrities just gravitate toward someplace in Washington: Capitol Hill, the White House, certain restaurants. But on Thursday, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert showed up at the Federal Election Commission, which was weighing his bid to launch a political action committee.

TV camera crews turned out, Colbert tweeted, and a crowd gathered. And along the way, the FEC made two significant decisions that could affect players in the 2012 elections.

'We Won! I Am A SuperPAC, And So Can You'

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