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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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Lawmakers are demanding to know what went wrong and who is to blame at the IRS. Two Senate committees held hearings yesterday on the agency's aggressive handling of applications from conservative groups who were seeking tax-exemption. A top IRS official facing a House committee, today, intends to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to testify. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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And let's turn now to the topic of political intelligence. This is the business of collecting highly detailed information from Congress and the regulatory agencies and then using it to make it money on Wall Street. The Securities and Exchange Commission is now investigating this practice. The probe comes a year after Congress passed legislation that barred lawmakers and staffers from leaking insider information as a violation of their official duties.

Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

While ideological gridlock continues to immobilize Capitol Hill, another of Washington's institutions is morphing behind the scenes.

The lobbying industry is becoming more secretive — reversing a trend that dates back to the 1990s. And campaign money now looms ever larger as a critical element in the persuasion business.

The American conservative movement has its homecoming this week: the Conservative Political Action Conference, where everyone from politicians to peddlers is out to inspire the faithful.

Last year, one of the headline speakers was former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who harked back to the second-ever CPAC in 1975, when Ronald Reagan laid out a vision for a conservative Republican Party.

She invoked his image of a banner of bold colors, not pale pastels.

The network of political groups headed by conservative industrialists David and Charles Koch spent millions of undisclosed dollars in last year's elections. Now, after failing to help Republicans win the White House or the Senate, the Koch brothers are re-examining the network, its goals and strategies.

The Supreme Court says it won't hear a case that would have let candidates solicit money from corporations. By doing so, the court is reaffirming one strict ban on corporate political money, three years ago after easing other limits in its controversial Citizens United ruling.

Congress likes to say it no longer does earmarks, the provisions that direct federal dollars to serve local interests or campaign supporters. And though that may be true, it's also a fact that targeted provisions are still useful in moving legislation — even critical legislation like the bill that pulled Washington back from the fiscal cliff last month.

Congress faces a battle over gun laws that could be the biggest in a generation.

Leading the charge for gun rights is the National Rifle Association, with its huge budget and grass-roots operations. On the other side, a new leader has emerged in recent years: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only outspoken on gun control, he has also opened his substantial wallet for the cause.

A week from Monday, President Obama is to take his public oath of office for a second term.

The inauguration will be marked by celebratory balls and other festivities, sponsored by the privately financed Presidential Inaugural Committee. The first Obama inauguration had strict fundraising rules. But this year, the rules have been loosened, and critics wonder what happened to the president's old pledge to change the way Washington works.

Weeks before President Obama officially nominated Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, the lobbying battle was well under way. The fight might be bigger than any other Cabinet nomination in history as the former Republican senator's friends and foes prepare for modern combat on TV and the Internet.

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Today also brought the first detailed response to the Newtown shootings from the nation's largest gun rights group, the National Rifle Association. At a media event here in Washington, the group's CEO took a defiant stance and took no questions. NRA leaders had promised meaningful contributions on how to prevent more mass killings. As NPR's Peter Overby reports, they recommended more, not fewer, guns.

Leaders of the National Rifle Association plan to break their weeklong silence Friday and make their first public comments on the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

They say they will be speaking for the NRA's 4 million members. But they will also be speaking for the gun industry, which has close financial ties to the association.

The NRA and the gun industry are reeling after last week's massacre. The primary weapon used — an AR-15-style rifle — is one of the most popular guns in America.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., shocked Washington last week when he announced that he will quit the Senate to become president of a think tank. But as the barriers crumble between policy research and partisan advocacy, the building blocks are there for DeMint and the conservative Heritage Foundation to build a powerful operation with political clout.

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A nearly complete picture is emerging of the money chase that shaped the presidential election. President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney each raised more than a billion dollars, according to new reports filed at the Federal Election Commission. But in the new era of unregulated outside groups and seemingly endless TV ads, that was only the beginning, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.

After spending millions of dollars in the presidential and Senate campaigns with little to show for it, many superPACs and other outside groups are still tending their wounds. But it's too soon to write off superPACs as a waste of wealthy donors' money.

Consider, for instance, this upset in a congressional race outside Los Angeles.

Debate over the long-term debt and the annual deficit has dominated the post-election agenda. Both the White House and Congress want to avert massive budget cuts and tax hikes early next year, a situation popularly called the "fiscal cliff."

The challenge has been brewing for years. But its current prominence owes much to the decades-long lobbying of billionaire Peter G. Peterson and his private foundation.

Political observers are still working through the rubble of the unprecedented $6 billion presidential campaign, but we're getting a steady stream of reaction and analysis.

The liberal advocacy groups U.S. PIRG and Demos have one of the most striking numerical comparisons: 1.4 million to 61.

This presidential election attracted $1.5 billion in outside spending — TV ads, robocalls and other political activity by groups created to take advantage of the new rules of campaign finance law.

On the day after the voting, the track record of the groups, most of them conservative, is open to question.

Tuesday night was a rough one for Karl Rove. The GOP guru is the guiding light and chief fundraiser for the biggest outside spender: the twin groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

The battle to control the Senate was a proving ground for the new Citizens United politics. Outside groups unleashed heavily funded barrages of attack ads meant to help elect candidates while letting them keep their distance from the nastiness.

In Ohio and Virginia, the tactic failed in rather dramatic ways, as Republicans backed by secretly financed ads failed to beat seemingly vulnerable Democrats.

As relentlessly as the candidates have courted voters, they've also shown their love to donors.

A report by the Center for Responsive Politics places the total cost of the 2012 elections at an estimated $6 billion, which would make it the most expensive election in U.S. history

If you're using social media to follow the presidential campaign or even if you're related to someone else who's doing that, there's a good chance your cellphone got spammed Tuesday night with an anti-Obama text message.

The messages went out between 7:30 and 10 p.m. They were anonymous but quickly traced to a Republican consulting firm in Northern Virginia.

The Obama organization is expected to exceed $1 billion in fundraising, as the candidates, party committees and superPACs file their last disclosure reports before Election Day.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block. A low profile wing of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has just reported raising a remarkable amount of money - $236 million in just the past few months. The report comes from Romney Victory, Incorporated, that's a joint fundraising committee that allows donors to give far more than the usual $5,000. Its limit is over $75,000 per person.

Since April, most of the TV ads supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have come from outside groups, not from Romney's own campaign. And those groups raised more than half of their money from secret donors, according to a six-month study of ads.

Since April, more than 825,000 presidential campaign ads have been broadcast in the battleground states. Oddly, the dominant Republican voice on TV hasn't been that of nominee Mitt Romney. The big advertisers are four heavily funded SuperPacs and tax-exempt groups.

Republican Mitt Romney started his campaign calling for big tax cuts, but now he has changed course. He's warning middle-class families not to raise their hopes too high.

Romney couldn't have been more emphatic than he was last November at a candidates' debate in Michigan.

"What I want to do is help the people who've been hurt the most, and that's the middle class," he said. "And so what I do is focus a substantial tax break on middle-income Americans."

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. Congressional Democrats are looking into allegations that a Republican consulting firm committed voter registration fraud. The head of the company is an Arizona operative with a reputation for aggressive tactics, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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