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.



Sat September 3, 2011

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.

Read more


Thu August 25, 2011

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.

Read more


Wed August 17, 2011

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.

Read more


Wed July 20, 2011

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.

Read more


Wed July 20, 2011

Congressional Support Impacts How NASA Spends


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...

Read more


Wed July 13, 2011

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.


Thu June 30, 2011

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'

Read more


Tue June 28, 2011

Supreme Court Overturns Ariz. Campaign Finance Law

The measure offered public funds to state legislative and executive-branch candidates who abide by tight contribution and spending limits.


Mon June 27, 2011

High Court Strikes Down Ariz. Campaign Finance Law

Originally published on Tue June 28, 2011 12:22 am

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow, but not a fatal one, to public campaign financing, with a 5-4 decision striking down a central provision of an Arizona law.

The Arizona law offers public funds to state legislative and executive-branch candidates who abide by tight contribution and spending limits. Another provision gives additional dollars when publicly funded candidates face big-spending opponents or outside money groups — and that's what was rejected by Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority.

Read more


Sun June 26, 2011

Speculation Runs High In Presidential Money Race

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney greets a volunteer at his "National Call Day" fundraising event at the Las Vegas Convention Center on May 16.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

This week marks a milestone in the presidential race. At midnight Thursday, the second quarter ends, and the campaigns have to tally up their first financial reports of the election cycle.

The filing deadline isn't until July 15, so it's now high season for speculation about who's got enough campaign money and who doesn't.

President Obama was back in New York City this week, where at three fundraisers in one evening, he revived for donors their 2008 vision of what America could be.

Read more


Wed June 22, 2011

The 'Country Lawyer' Shaping Campaign Finance Law

Originally published on Wed June 22, 2011 2:33 pm

Attorney James Bopp talks to the media outside the Supreme Court on April 28, 2010, after arguing a case testing whether the names on a petition asking for the repeal of Washington state's domestic partnership rights should be kept secret.
Evan Vucci AP

A new loophole is being pried open in the campaign finance rules. It would enable federal candidates to once again solicit corporate money to finance organizations that promise to help them get elected.

The idea comes from a lawyer who has done more than anyone else over the years to upset the status quo in America's political money laws — James Bopp Jr., of Terre Haute, Ind.

Read more


Tue June 21, 2011
It's All Politics

Newt Gingrich Loses Two Top Fundraisers

The political world learned Tuesday that two more aides, this time top fundraisers, quit Newt Gingrich's campaign.

The official word is that financial director Jody Thomas and consultant Mary Heitman decided to "step away from the campaign." That's the campaign's phrasing.

Their departure comes 12 days after Gingrich's top campaign strategists all quit along with grassroots organizers in Iowa, the first state in the Republican nomination contest, and staff in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Read more


Mon June 20, 2011

Report: Obama Big-Money Donors Got Plum Posts

President Obama and the first lady attended a total of six fundraising events last week, half of them small gatherings with top-dollar donors. They also got a reminder of what comes with reliance on high rollers: An unflattering analysis of how many big givers in 2008 wound up with jobs in the administration.

Read more


Tue June 7, 2011

Lobbyists Want Fries and Pizza To Stay In School

Pizzas in the lunchroom at a Chicago high school.
Tim Boyle Getty Images

Some student food favorites are under attack in Washington. The Agriculture Department has released new standards for school nutrition and has published them for public comment. Speaking right up are lobbyists for the food industry.

The standards, the first new version since 1994, would limit starchy vegetables to two servings a week. That guideline covers corn, peas, lima beans, and a hot item in the serving line — french fries.

But the CEO of the National Potato Council, John Keeling, says not so fast.

Read more


Thu May 12, 2011

Outgoing FCC Commissioner To Lobby For Comcast

Washington's revolving door is spinning again this week, with Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker's announcement that she is resigning to become a lobbyist for Comcast.

Baker's last day on the commission will be June 3, a few weeks before the end of her term, and just over four months after she voted to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.

Back in 2009, when the merger was proposed, Baker said on C-SPAN that the commission shouldn't try to regulate too much.

Read more


Fri April 22, 2011

Rep. Van Hollen Sues FEC Over Campaign Disclosure

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and a team of campaign finance lawyers have launched a legal attack on two rules written by the Federal Election Commission — rules that currently shield wealthy and corporate donors from public identification.

The challenge, in a lawsuit against the FEC and a separate petition to the agency, comes as opponents of big money in politics struggle to regain the offensive. After years of court decisions that went against them, advocates who once fought to set tougher limits on contributions are now fighting to save transparency.

Read more