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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Politics
5:17 am
Tue January 20, 2015

5 Years After Citizens United, Secret Money Floods Into U.S. Politics

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 3:42 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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It's All Politics
5:25 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Conservative Koch Brothers' Group Puts Congressional GOP On Notice

Congressional Republicans have "been given a second chance by the American people," AFP President Tim Phillips said. "And we're going to hold them accountable. We're determined about that."
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 10:12 am

Americans for Prosperity, the most prominent arm of the Koch brothers' organization, put Republican lawmakers on notice Thursday, setting out a conservative agenda for Congress. AFP leaders say it will be pushed by the group's grass-roots supporters in 34 states.

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Politics
6:22 am
Mon January 12, 2015

Lobbyists Adjust To GOP Majority On Capitol Hill

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 11:05 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR Story
5:13 am
Tue December 30, 2014

Progressives Create State Innovation Exchange To Counter ALEC

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 12:19 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Business
8:13 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Should Homeowners With Solar Panels Pay To Maintain Electrical Grid?

Solar energy panels on a roof in Marshfield, Mass.
Stephan Savoia AP

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 12:14 pm

The costs of solar energy are plummeting, and now are about on par with the electricity generated at big power plants. This new reality intensifies a long-running business and regulatory battle, between the mainline electric utility companies and newer firms that provide solar systems for homeowners' rooftops. Sometimes the rivalry looks more like hardball politics than marketplace economics.

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Politics
5:06 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Senators Try Again To Make Disclosure Process Electronic

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 6:44 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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The Two-Way
5:51 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Alaska Station Sets Dubious Record: Most Senate Campaign Ads

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan greets supporters on election night in Anchorage. The as-yet-undecided race between Sullivan and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich was the hottest in the state.
Ted S. Warren AP

It's a record most Alaskans might wish they could give back: The Center for Public Integrity calculates that KTUU TV in Anchorage ran more U.S. Senate ads this cycle than any other television station in the country — 12,300 in all.

Those Senate spots made up the bulk of the 13,400 political ads since January. KTUU General Manager Andrew MacLeod says 2014 was the the station's busiest year ever. By contrast, off-year 2013 was relatively light.

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Politics
4:39 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Money Mixes Up Missouri Circuit-Court Race

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 1:17 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now another story of big, political money coming to small-town America. In Cole County, Missouri, a circuit court judge is fighting to stay on the bench. Her challenger was underfunded until he got some outside help. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Politics
4:23 am
Mon October 20, 2014

This Political Ad Was Paid For By — Oh, Never Mind

Among outside groups — that is, not candidates or party committees — more than half of this cycle's political ads are financed by secret donors.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 6:42 pm

When you talk about "outside" money in politics, there's a good chance you'll talk about billionaire activists David and Charles Koch.

Especially if you're Harry Reid. The Senate majority leader regularly takes to the Senate floor to slam the Kochs for financing a network of conservative groups. Back in March, he said he was criticizing "two very wealthy brothers who intend to buy their own Congress, a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy."

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Politics
5:56 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Top Spending PAC Aims To Keep The Senate In Democratic Hands

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 8:16 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
5:18 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Jury Finds Virginia's Former First Couple Guilty Of Corruption

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 10:58 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DON GONYEA, HOST:

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It's All Politics
3:15 am
Mon September 1, 2014

A Political Family, Funding And Running On Both Sides Of The Aisle

The Ricketts family poses on the Chicago Cubs field in 2010, a year after they bought the team: Laura Ricketts (from left), Joe Ricketts, Marlene Ricketts, Todd Ricketts, Tom Ricketts and Pete Ricketts.
Nam Y. Huh AP

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 11:02 am

Rich families sustain American politics. Some produce candidates; others supply money. And in rare instances, a family will do both.

Meet Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of Ending Spending, an independent political organization that's among the top 10 spenders this election cycle. Three of his four children are politically active, including one who's running for governor.

A Billionaire With Political Punch

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It's All Politics
6:41 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Former Iowa Lawmaker Admits To Getting Payoff Before 2012 Caucuses

Kent Sorenson says he was paid for his endorsement of Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential campaign — and that the exchange was hidden from the public.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 9:24 pm

A former Iowa state senator says he concealed money he took for shifting loyalty from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul during the 2012 presidential campaign.

There's always a certain amount of weirdness in the Iowa presidential caucuses, and in the 2012 cycle the peak weirdness might have come just before New Year's. Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson, the Iowa chairman for Bachmann's campaign, jumped to the Paul campaign six days before the voting — immediately setting off rumors that he had taken a payoff for switching sides.

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Politics
5:29 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Interest Groups Come Down On Opposite Sides Of Export-Import Bank

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 2:19 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's follow up on a story we heard about yesterday with the Republican Party's primary season winding down, the party establishment and Tea Party conservatives are shifting the focus of their fight. This time it's over a federal agency that helps to finance American companies in foreign trade. The legal authority for the Export-Import Bank expires in September. Small government conservatives are going all out to abolish it. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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The Salt
5:25 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Lobbyists Loom Behind The Scenes Of School Nutrition Fight

Patrick McCoy (right) and Harry Fowler of Schwan's Food Service show off their company's Big Daddy's pizza at the School Nutrition Association's national conference in Chicago in 2007.
Brian Kersey AP

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:01 pm

The School Nutrition Association — what you might call the national organization for lunch ladies (and gents) — says it was trying to improve the healthfulness of school lunches.

But it says the U.S. Agriculture Department didn't help when things got tough, so it went to Congress. House Republicans provided help, but they also put the group in the middle of a partisan battle over what to feed America's school students.

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Politics
5:08 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Outside Groups To Spend Even More Ahead Of Miss. GOP Senate Runoff

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 11:09 am

Well-heeled outside groups easily outspent Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel before the GOP Senate primary in Mississippi. They're going all in on the runoff election later this month.

Politics
5:34 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Amendment Would Allow Congress To Set Political Spending Limits

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 8:32 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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Politics
5:07 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Tea Party Stumbles As GOP Establishment Flexes Fundraising Strength

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 8:54 pm

Tea Party candidates did well in GOP primary elections in 2010 and 2012; this year, not so much. Part of this lack of success is because establishment candidates have generally out-raised them, and establishment-aligned outside groups are no longer reluctant to get involved in primaries.

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Politics
5:36 am
Wed May 14, 2014

With Midterm Elections In Mind, Democrats Micro-Target Voters

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 9:30 am

During the 2012 presidential race, Democrats used big data to much success. The big data approach to micro-targeting voters is getting increasingly powerful, and is being used for midterm campaigns.

Politics
5:17 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Debate Endures Over Tax Exempt Status Of Crossroads GPS

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 3:26 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tomorrow marks a year since the IRS admitted it have given excessive scrutiny to Tea Party and right-leaning patriot groups that wanted tax exempt status. Since then, the tax agency has been battered by firings, resignations, lawsuits and investigations. It's also been a tough year for the biggest group known to have been under that scrutiny by the IRS, the social welfare organization Crossroads GPS. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Law
5:17 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Rep. Grimm Pleads Not Guilty To Fraud Charges

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 12:52 pm

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New York City Congressman Michael Grimm is a former FBI agent. Yesterday he surrendered to the FBI after being indicted on 20 charges related to taxes, perjury and fraud. Mr. Grimm is fighting the charges but said he would step down from the powerful House Financial Services Committee. News of Grimm's indictment leaked last Friday, so that announcement yesterday was not a surprise.

But the charges were. NPR's Peter Overby explains.

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Politics
5:34 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Pay-To-Play Laws Celebrate 20th Anniversary

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during an April 17 news conference in New York.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 7:15 pm

While the Supreme Court this month took another step in freeing up big political donors, another set of federal restrictions on political money is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The so-called pay-to-play rules — enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission — are a narrow but powerful way to control political cash.

Think "pay to play" and you might think of video games or high school sports. But in politics, "pay to play" refers to something totally different — a particular kind of political corruption.

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Business
5:10 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Did A Federal Safety Agency Help General Motors Avoid A Recall?

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 8:22 am

As details emerge about GM's handling of an ignition switch recall, a question is raised again: What is the relationship between regulators and the regulated, and the revolving door between the two?

Politics
4:51 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Court's Decision Will Encourage Joint Fundraising Committees

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 7:53 am

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down limits on how much a single individual can give in total to candidates and parties. The ruling could give wealthy donors even more influence in elections.

Politics
3:15 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Say Goodbye To The Taxpayer-Funded Political Convention

Ever since the Watergate era, taxpayers have been able to check a box on their federal tax returns and designate a little bit of their tax payment to help finance the presidential campaigns and wean politicians away from big donors.

The public financing program has had its ups and downs. But now President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that, for the first time, takes taxpayer money out of the fund.

First of all, let's pause to reflect on some of the great moments of American political conventions brought to you by presidential matching funds.

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Movies
5:12 am
Thu February 27, 2014

FBI's Abscam Videos Are As Unbelievable As 'American Hustle'

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 7:30 am

The Oscar contender is loosely based on the Abscam sting, which nailed a senator and six House members on corruption charges. The FBI videotaped some Hollywood-worthy scenes.

Law
4:08 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Once Neglected, Secretaries Of State Step Into The Spotlight

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 7:58 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Control of Congress won't be the only big question in this fall's elections. A quieter but critical battle is being waged over state-level races for secretary of state. In most states, that's the official in charge of running elections. Elections have become a political lightning rod. Many conservatives rail against voter fraud and lax rules, liberals say that's voter suppression. And now, as NPR's Peter Overby reports, superPACs want to nationalize the fight over secretary of state.

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Politics
4:55 am
Mon January 27, 2014

IRS Wants To Tighten Its Rule On Social Welfare Groups

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 7:25 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Internal Revenue Service wants to tighten rules on social welfare groups and it has opened itself up for public comment, giving Americans a chance to sound off. It seems people have a lot to sound off about. The agency has received thousands of comments about the IRS scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status and the hundreds of millions of dollars raised from unnamed donors and spent on the 2012 elections. NPR's Peter Overby has more.

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It's All Politics
3:34 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Political Groups Aim Early Attacks At New Hampshire Senator

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in the U.S. Capitol building May 14, 2013. Groups are creating ads in New Hampshire to attack Shaheen 10 months before the midterm congressional elections.
Allison Shelley Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 7:32 am

Even with 10 months to go before the midterm congressional elections, some political and ideological groups are already on the air, attacking incumbents they hope to take down in November.

One race that's attracting early advertisers is in New Hampshire, where Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is seeking a second term, and two tax-exempt social welfare organizations are buying ads against her.

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Politics
4:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

IRS Targets Money Transfers In Social-Welfare Politicking

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 4:05 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The IRS is taking aim at the growing political role of tax-exempt social welfare groups. It's a category of American politics where spending has increased 80-fold in the last decade. Donors can give as much money as they want to these groups, and their names are not disclosed to the public. The IRS wants to roll back the social welfare politicking, after a summer of controversy over the way it treated Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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