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.

The presidential candidates are wrestling with the issue of political money, which emerged as a bigger issue this cycle than in any presidential race since the 1970s.

Bernie Sanders started last week's Democratic debate with this point: "We have today a campaign finance system which is corrupt, which is undermining American democracy, which allows Wall Street and billionaires to pour huge sums of money into the political process."

And Hillary Clinton, closing the debate, said, "We agree that we've gotta get unaccountable money out of politics."

Here's a question for New Hampshire voters. Would you have voted for Jeb Bush if he'd given you $1,086?

Bush didn't offer that, obviously. But that's the amount his campaign and superPAC spent on TV ads in New Hampshire for each vote Bush received in the primary on Tuesday.

The Takeaways:

  • Republican candidates raised more than $227 million in 2015, less than the GOP field raised in 2011.
  • The year-end reports include the first disclosure of big money from Donald Trump and reveal the precarious state of Jeb Bush's White House bid.
  • Some wealthy conservative donors, including Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, haven't put their money behind any GOP candidate yet. Big donors on the Democratic side are behind Hillary Clinton.

Update at at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday: Sen. Ted Cruz gave the Federal Election Commission an accounting of his campaign loans Thursday evening. The Cruz for Senate treasurer acknowledged in a letter that Cruz's loans to the campaign were underwritten by a margin loan from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a managing director, and a line of credit from Citibank.

When this presidential campaign got underway last spring, the buzz was that a candidate would be propelled by passing off the heavy costs of TV advertising to a friendly superPAC. But now the opposite is true.

Donald Trump, leading the Republican field, has no superPAC. Some other superPACs are pouring cash into TV, but their candidates are stuck low in the polls.

Trump just recently started buying TV time, after months of depending on news coverage to promote his campaign.

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Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton attended her first event for an organization called the Hillary Victory Fund. About 160 guests attended, and the event grossed more than $5 million.

The Hillary Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee for Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic committees of 32 states and Puerto Rico.

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Florida mailman and gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes has pleaded guilty to one felony for his campaign-finance reform caper last April. He landed his flying machine on the Capitol lawn before authorities apprehended him.

He meant to deliver individual letters to all senators and House members, urging them to clamp down on superPACs, "dark money" groups and millionaire donors. That didn't work out. He was arrested; Capitol police confiscated the letters and prosecutors hit him with six charges.

The superPAC backing Jeb Bush seemed to have everything it needed. It went into the primaries with the most money by far. Right to Rise USA had raised $103 million by June 30, with plenty of help from Bush before he officially announced his candidacy and could no longer legally ask for big contributions.

In September, Right to Rise put the money to work, announcing it would buy $24 million worth of TV ads in the first three nominating states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Bernie Sanders proudly says he doesn't have a superPAC — one of those unshackled political committees that raise and spend unlimited money that the candidate couldn't accept.

Donald Trump has run his presidential campaign by his own rules, and he's blown past traditional candidates, playing by the old rules, in the process.

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Late August may be the absolutely worst time to launch a political TV blitz. But a Democratic superPAC, Priorities USA Action, is offering up a minicampaign this week and next, warning Republicans that their heated rhetoric on immigration is captured on videotape and being prepped for prime time later in the race.

When billionaire developer Donald Trump entered the presidential race two months ago, he drew a sharp line between other candidates — needy candidates, always trading favors for money — and himself.

"I'm really rich. I assure you of that," he said as supporters cheered. "And by the way, I'm not even saying that in a bragga — that's the kind of mindset, that's the kind of thinking, you need for this country."

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It was hard not to notice Rick Perry's plight last month, when the Republican presidential campaigns filed their financial disclosures. The former Texas governor's total take so far is $1.1 million. Cash on hand as of June 30 was $884,000. For comparison, fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign raised $14.3 million, with $8.5 million on hand.

But even as Perry For President Inc. is cutting its payroll, his people have a rescue plan. If it works, it's likely to set a new standard for how presidential campaigns are financed.

Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig, a longtime critic of big political money, has set the stage for a presidential bid.

In what may be a perhaps-almost-final word on the 2013 IRS controversy and alleged targeting of Tea Party groups, a two-year bipartisan Senate investigation found the agency needs to cut through bureaucratic red tape and institute better communication and management.

But members of the Senate Finance Committee, which issued the report, were largely split along party lines on the question of why the IRS went off the rails.

Jesse Benton, a political operative in the White House bids of both Sen. Rand Paul and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, was indicted Wednesday on charges that he schemed to pay off a top supporter of another candidate in an effort to win the 2012 Iowa caucuses for Ron Paul.

The government alleges in an indictment released Wednesday that Benton, along with two other operatives, "conspired" to "knowingly defraud the United States," obstruct justice, falsify records and "conceal," "cover up," "trick" and "scheme."

In the weeks since Donald Trump launched his self-financed bid for president, the multibillionaire's hard-edged rhetoric has gotten far more attention than the potential impact of his massive wealth.

Trump has several times said his net worth is or exceeds $10 billion, providing all the money he needs to run.

"I don't need anybody's money," he said as he announced his candidacy in June. "I'm using my own money. I'm not using the lobbyists. I'm not using donors. I don't care. I'm really rich."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, running in the Democratic presidential primaries, has raised about $15 million, his campaign said Thursday.

His campaign emphasized the grass-roots strength of his fundraising: 250,000 donors making nearly 400,000 contributions of $250 or less.

The numbers come from a quarterly disclosure report being filed at the Federal Election Commission, and are measured from when Sanders launched his campaign April 30.

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The first political operative to ever be found guilty of illegally coordinating between a superPAC and campaign was sentenced Friday to two years in prison and two additional years of probation.

"I did it, it was wrong when I did it, and I knew it was wrong when I did it," Tyler Harber admitted in federal court Friday.

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