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.



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