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
2:16 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Running Against The Koch Brothers

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch addresses attendees of the Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Fla., Friday, Aug. 30, 2013.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 5:50 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Since the start of the year, the political ad war against vulnerable Democratic senators has not been run by the Republican Party. Instead, the attacks have been coming from a tax-exempt social welfare group called Americans for Prosperity. Now, Democrats are pushing back. Instead of going after the organization, they're attacking its most prominent benefactors, conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Movies
3:12 am
Thu February 27, 2014

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

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 5:30 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
2:03 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Once Neglected, Secretaries Of State Step Into The Spotlight

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 5:58 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
1:02 am
Thu February 13, 2014

'Citizens United' Critics Fight Money With Money

A woman signs a giant banner printed with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution during a demonstration against the Citizens United ruling in Washington in October 2010.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 9:19 am

It's been four years since the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling, the case that set the stage for unlimited and often undisclosed contribution money in federal elections. This year, the superPACs and social welfare organizations that use that money for attack ads are already at it, even as Republicans and Democrats are still choosing their candidates for the fall campaigns.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Lobbyists Help Pay The Bill At Republican Lawmakers' Retreat

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 6:00 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

House Republicans are midway through their annual retreat. The three-day get-together is happening at a waterside hotel on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Lawmakers of both parties hold this kind of annual partisan conference to map out legislative strategy. And as usual, there's some controversy over who's footing the bill for them.

Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

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Politics
2:55 am
Mon January 27, 2014

IRS Wants To Tighten Its Rule On Social Welfare Groups

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 5:25 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
5:11 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

IRS Gets Spending Bill Smackdown From Congress

John Koskinen, President Obama's choice to head the Internal Revenue Service, testifies Dec. 10 on Capitol Hill before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on his nomination.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

The IRS is getting a special $200,000 earmark in the 2014 spending bill now moving through Congress.

But it's not because the agency is suddenly in the good graces of lawmakers.

The new funds are earmarked for "intensive training" in the Exempt Organizations division – the office that pulled the IRS into its worst scandal in years. Last spring, Exempt Organizations chief Lois Lerner apologized for the division's targeting of tea party and other conservative groups that were seeking tax exemptions as 501c4 social welfare organizations.

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It's All Politics
1:34 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 5:32 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
2:27 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Remembering The Texans Who Made Attack Ads Nastier

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 4:18 pm

Texas Republican Harold Simmons, who died last weekend, was known for throwing millions of dollars into fiercely aggressive attack ads against Democrats. His death, along with that of Texas conservative Bob Perry earlier this year, signals the fading of the first wave of mega-donors in modern American politics.

Politics
2:02 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Conservatives Want What Socialists Got: Anonymous Political Cash

Even conservatives who once championed disclosure of political spending are now arguing that contributions should be able to be made secretly, and they point to the long-standing exemption from disclosure for the Socialist Workers Party.

Politics
7:04 am
Sat December 21, 2013

The Life Of A Lobbyist In A Do-Nothing Congress

After casting their final votes of a session in which few laws were passed, members of Congress leave for a five-week recess.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 2:00 pm

The 113th Congress has finished its first session, and lawmakers enacted fewer than 60 laws. No Congress since 1947 has done so little legislating.

That's bad news for many of Washington's lobbyists. Howard Marlowe, for one, hasn't been feeling the joy of his job.

"One of the driest periods in the 35 years that I've been lobbying," he says.

An old Washington hand, Marlowe has a small, boutique lobbying firm specializing in local infrastructure projects. His client base includes airports, shipping ports and local governments.

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It's All Politics
4:45 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

Ethics Panel Hands Down Holiday Gift Rules — In Rhyme

The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree is lit against the early morning sky on Dec. 4.
J. David Ake AP

Time was when business-suited Santas would spend December roaming the corridors of Congress, bestowing all sorts of goodies upon their elected friends, prospective friends and staffers: baskets of food, bottles of booze, even high-priced tickets to sports events.

That last item is the kind of thing that sent uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison. It also brought the House of Representatives a new set of ethics rules — stern and often complex limits on accepting gifts.

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Politics
2:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

IRS Targets Money Transfers In Social-Welfare Politicking

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 2:05 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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It's All Politics
3:48 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Court Upholds Public Broadcasting Political Ad Ban

This image, provided by the Obama For America campaign, shows a still frame made from a video ad entitled "Only Choice."
Uncredited AP

While lawyers dismantle many restrictions on political money, the rules affecting Morning Edition and Downton Abbey still stand tall. A federal court in San Francisco says public radio and TV stations cannot carry paid political ads.

The 8-3 decision Monday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling last April by a smaller panel of the court. NPR and PBS both joined the case as friends of the court.

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Politics
2:33 am
Fri November 22, 2013

FEC: Tea Party May Not Shield Donors

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 3:45 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene. The Federal Election Commission has turned back a bid by conservatives to weaken the federal campaign-finance disclosure law. A Tea Party group had asked for a precedent-changing decision to keep its donor lists secret. It said Tea Party members are being targeted for harassment and intimidation. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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It's All Politics
4:57 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

What A Bitcoin Political Debut Could Mean For Transparency

Bitcoins have gone from an Internet oddity to much more. The FEC is now considering allowing the virtual currency to fund some political campaigns.
Rick Bowmer AP

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 5:28 pm

Bitcoin, the virtual currency that exists as alphanumeric strings online, is on the verge of getting into politics.

The Federal Election Commission is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to allow bitcoin contributions to political action committees — even as skeptics say that bitcoins could undermine the disclosure standards of federal law.

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Politics
3:39 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Contractors Lobby For Alternatives To Military Cuts

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 4:53 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Congress and the Pentagon are facing an important deadline. In just under two months, the second wave of congressionally mandated sequestration - budget cuts - will kicked in, and Pentagon spending is scheduled to be slashed by $20 billion. Military contractors say that it would be catastrophic, and they're lobbying hard to make those cuts fall somewhere else, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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It's All Politics
3:42 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Obama Donor Behind Third-Party Va. Candidate? Maybe Not

Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, speaks with the news media after casting his ballot in Nokesville, Va., on Tuesday.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 5:42 pm

This week's hot rumor in Virginia: Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis was a spoiler, bankrolled by an Obama bundler from Texas, to undercut Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

On Election Day, Sarvis captured nearly 7 percent of the vote in a race Cuccinelli lost by less than 3 percentage points to Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

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Politics
2:47 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Outside Money Plays Big Role In Va. Race For Governor

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 8:17 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Two of the big winners in Virginia's elections this week were not on the ballot. They actually aren't even Virginians. They are two men who spent more than $2 million each to help elect Democrat Terry McAuliffe as governor.

NPR's Peter Overby reports on the Election Day impact of San Francisco environmentalist Tom Steyer and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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NPR News Investigations
3:26 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Secret Persuasion: How Big Campaign Donors Stay Anonymous

A composite image shows part of the NPR/Center for Responsive Politics reporting team's whiteboard at NPR headquarters that was used to map out how Wellspring connects to other social welfare groups. (Click the enlarge button to see a full-size image.)
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 2:48 pm

Part two of our "Secret Persuasion" story reported with the Center for Responsive Politics. Read the first part here.

As tax-exempt organizations become a vehicle of choice for big political donors, one powerful appeal is the anonymity. Federal laws allow tax-exempt groups — unlike political committees — to withhold their donor lists from disclosure.

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NPR News Investigations
3:20 am
Tue November 5, 2013

From Social Welfare Groups, A River Of Political Influence

The Au Sable River in Michigan is a popular place for fly fishermen and the heart of a debate unexpectedly influenced by largely invisible social welfare organizations.
Christine Arrasmith NPR

Originally published on Thu November 7, 2013 9:38 am

Part one of the two-part "Secret Persuasion" investigation, reported with the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bruce Pregler walks down the slope from his cabin, eases into the Au Sable River and casts his line; fishing takes his thoughts away from his downstate law practice.

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Politics
2:23 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Outside Political Money Floods Virginia Races

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 4:25 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Virginia holds elections next month for state offices, including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. But what was historically a pretty sedate affair is, this year, drawing millions of dollars from all over the country.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Politics
3:39 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Money For Dam Project In Shutdown Deal Riles Conservatives

The Olmsted Locks and Dam project is under construction on the Ohio River between Illinois and Kentucky.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 8:09 pm

This week's congressional compromise to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling had a few other provisions as well.

One of them allows additional spending on a lock and dam project on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois.

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The Government Shutdown
4:12 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Why A Medical Device Tax Became Part Of The Fiscal Fight

Among the bargaining chips in the budget crisis on Capitol Hill, there's the small but persistent issue of taxing medical device manufacturers.

The 2.3 percent sales tax covers everything from MRI machines to replacement hips and maybe even surgical gloves. The tax was imposed to help pay for the Affordable Care Act. It didn't attract much attention at first — at least, not outside the world of medical device manufacturers.

But they have waged a persistent campaign to undo the tax, and right now is the closest they have come to succeeding.

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It's All Politics
9:25 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Koch Industries Pushes Back Against Harry Reid

David Koch addresses attendees of the Defending the American Dream Summit in Orlando, Fla., on Aug. 30.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 12:26 pm

Most business interests would do anything to avoid a public fight with the most powerful man in the Senate.

Not Koch Industries.

The privately owned conglomerate of conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch is busy trading volleys with Majority Leader Harry Reid in the battle over the Affordable Care Act and the government shutdown.

What's unusual here is the word trading. It wasn't so many years ago that the Koch brothers and their company would have said nothing, just absorbed political slams without comment.

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Politics
6:03 am
Sat October 5, 2013

Nothing Raises Cash Like A Crisis

Originally published on Sat October 5, 2013 9:11 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The government shutdown upset more than the federal budget. It also disrupted members of Congress in their campaign fundraising. Across Capitol Hill, routine fundraising events are being cancelled. But the political parties and advocacy groups are following an old axiom: There is no time like a crisis to raise cash. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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Politics
3:55 am
Sat May 25, 2013

IRS Hearings Highlight Ambiguity Of Nonprofits In Politics

Originally published on Sat May 25, 2013 11:19 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. In the two weeks since the Internal Revenue Service scandal erupted, the acting commissioner has been ousted, the head of the relevant section has been put on administrative leave. The Justice Department has begun investigating the scrutiny given to conservative groups that sought tax exempt status and three congressional committees have held hearings bombarding IRS officials with questions.

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Politics
2:38 am
Thu May 23, 2013

IRS Official's Silence Riles House Committee Members

Originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 10:54 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The IRS has admitted to targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. And yesterday at a House hearing the IRS director of exempt organizations said, quote: "I have not done anything wrong." She then declined to testify. Lois Lerner's brief appearance at the committee was just the beginning of a stormy, five-hour session filled with angry outbursts and allegations of political motives.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Lois Lerner did read a statement that she had done her job properly.

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Politics
4:32 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Battle Lines Harden In Debate Over Blame For IRS Controversy

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 7:29 am

Transcript

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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Politics
5:23 am
Sat May 18, 2013

Highly Charged IRS Case Pulls In Political Agendas

NPR's Peter Overby reports on the Congressional testimony of IRS officials in response to the scandal over special scrutiny of tea party groups. Underneath all the politics, there's a policy question that hasn't been addressed.

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