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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.

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," ...

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."...

Donald Trump's massive 92-page financial disclosure released Wednesday still didn't answer the most burning question — exactly how much is the boisterous billionaire businessman worth? The GOP presidential candidate boasted last month he's worth $10 billion, though before he has said it was about $9 billion and Forbes magazine has pegged his net worth at $4 billion. But the disclosure, required by law for all federal candidates, is simply supposed to prevent conflicts of interests...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: Next year's elections are expected to see record sums of money poured into TV ads. Here's one estimate - $4.4 billion. That would be up from $3 billion in 2012, the last presidential cycle. And while there are nearly two dozen presidential candidates this year, their campaigns aren't the ones fueling the spending. Most of the ads are expected to come from heavily financed super PACs. NPR's Peter Overby...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript DAVID GREENE, HOST: If you're a political reporter, this morning you're probably feeling like you're surrounded by numbers. This is because last night was the deadline for presidential candidates to disclose how much money their campaign committees have raised. Truth be told, though, the really big money is in the hands of groups that are supposed to be independent of the campaigns. Here's our colleague who always makes...

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. The maximum legal contribution to a presidential...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: Many of the men and women running for president have been trying to show they have nothing to hide. Republican Jeb Bush has gone to some lengths on the matter of transparency. Earlier this year, Bush released his official emails from his time as governor of Florida. And yesterday, he opened the books on his personal finances with the release of tax returns for 33 years, all the way up until 2013. NPR...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: A big battle over a tiny federal agency is still roiling Capitol Hill. The Export-Import Bank - we'll get to what it does in a minute - is set to lose its authorization at midnight. That's because Congress went home last week without renewing it, but the fight goes on. Here is NPR's Peter Overby. PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The job of the Export-Import Bank is to promote U.S. exports by financing deals with...

Just how much is Donald Trump worth? "I'm really rich," Trump declared during his presidential announcement Tuesday in New York at Trump Tower, one of the many buildings around the world donning his name. But just how rich has always been a question. It was one before the real-estate mogul declared for president and, well, it remains a big question afterward, too, despite Trump holding up a one-page form declaring he is worth roughly $9 billion. Trump has never liked to get specific about his...

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. Harber controlled both the campaign and superPAC that ran ads supporting Chris Perkins, a Virginia Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly. Harber took a big...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Millions of dollars will be spent in this presidential election by super-PAC-supporting candidates. These outside groups are not supposed to coordinate with the campaigns, but increasingly, that line is getting fuzzy. NPR's Peter Overby reports on a political operative who got caught crossing that line. Tomorrow, he'll be sentenced in federal court and faces up to a decade in prison. PETER OVERBY,...

Jeb Bush was pleading for money. Late last month a fundraising email, sent in his name, asked donors for "$100, $50, $25, or anything you can spare right now." Bush said his political action committee still needed $5,674 to meet a monthly goal. The same day his organization hit "send" on that email, Bush was talking about the big-donor fundraising for his superPAC — $100 million so far, some of it solicited by Bush himself. "We're going to completely adhere to the law for sure," the former...

A New York Times-CBS News poll offers compelling new numbers measuring Americans' attitudes toward the rising tide of political money. Just one question: Which numbers should you believe? The current system, in place since the 2010 Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, allows the biggest donors to operate largely unregulated, and often secretly. That decision, and a lower-court ruling called, SpeechNow.org v. FEC, have sent presidential candidates in ardent...

Another day, another inquiry into the finances of Hillary and Bill Clinton. This one starts with an Associated Press report that a limited liability company — WJC LLC — has served as a platform for the former president's career as a consultant. Revenues flow through it to the Clintons. It has never appeared in Hillary Clinton's official financial disclosures. The revelation, landing amid controversies around the Clintons' speaking fees and fundraising for the Clinton Foundation , fueled new...

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST: The Florida mailman who landed his gyrocopter outside the Capitol last month is back in Washington. Doug Hughes was in Federal District Court pleading not guilty to a six-count indictment. NPR's Peter Overby spoke to Hughes about his controversial trip and why he made it. PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Outside the courthouse, Hughes called his flight an act of civil disobedience. DOUG HUGHES: I'm not eager for...

Florida postman Doug Hughes made headlines last month for landing his gyrocopter on the lawn in front of the Capitol building. In an interview with NPR, Hughes said he "made every effort to send word ahead" about the flight, but also knew he would be taken into custody. He made the flight anyway, he said, to "get a message to the American people — not that there's a problem with Congress but that there are solutions to the problem." Hughes spoke to NPR on Thursday before appearing in federal...

Doug Hughes, the Florida postman who gyrocoptered through Washington's anti-terrorism warning system to land on the Capitol lawn, now faces two felonies, four misdemeanors and up to 9 1/2 years in prison for his efforts. His mission was to deliver stamped letters — he is a postman — to the nation's 535 senators and representatives, telling them they must choose between the voters back home and the big donors who finance their political careers. Hughes is due in federal district...

Secret money in politics, especially the corporate variety, has been controversial ever since the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case. Now, about 70 charitable foundations are asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to end that secrecy. "All we're calling for is disclosure. That's all," Stephen Heintz , president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund , told NPR. "We're not saying to limit it, we're not saying to eliminate it. We're just saying, you know,...

You just had a good look at your financial situation last month, when you did your tax return. Now you can check out the government's official financial reports on President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden . Federal elected officials, candidates and high-level bureaucrats have to file annual financial disclosure statements. The Obamas and Bidens submitted their 2014 reports this week. The numbers aren't terribly exciting, compared with financial disclosures by some members of the...

If Congress is all about sausage-making , Washington's political-money industry has its own specialty: slicing the particular sausage that is campaign finance law, thinner and thinner. The meat of the law is in its definitions. What is a "contribution"? An "expenditure"? What does "coordinate" really mean? "Public communication"? How about "candidate"? The campaign-finance law, its amendments, regulations and related court decisions define these terms and dozens of others. Nowadays, the art...

The price tag for the most expensive penthouses in Manhattan is just edging past $100 million. That's also the size of contributions given by conservative businessman David Koch and Hollywood mogul David Geffen to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where each philanthropist got naming rights for a building. And $100 million is what political advisers to Republican Jeb Bush expect to have by June 1 in the bank accounts of Right To Rise SuperPAC — the unlimited-contributions committee...

The presidential hopefuls haven't spent much time so far with voters. Instead, they've committed many days to courting the millionaires and billionaires who can fuel a White House bid. And at the same time, activists on the left and right are seeking to redefine political corruption, which they believe this is. One prime example: The political network of brothers David and Charles Koch — with pledges of nearly $900 million — seems to bedazzle prospective Republican candidates. In a recent...

If there's one thing that today's Supreme Court doesn't like, it's governmental overreach in regulating political money. But if there's something the court likes even less, it's the increasing prominence of money in electing America's judges. That's how five justices came to uphold a rule in Florida that prevents judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign cash. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's four liberals in rejecting an appeal by Lanell Williams-Yulee, a...

During the early phase of her presidential run, Hillary Clinton has been dogged by scrutiny of her family's foundation, the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation . The Clintons have pushed back, calling the foundation among the most transparent foundations in the world. Bill Clinton, in an interview with Town & Country magazine, said it was, "by a good long stretch, the most transparent of all the presidential foundations and more transparent than a lot of other major foundations in the...

Hillary Clinton made a surprising move this week. It wasn't running for president — she'd already set the stage for that — but embracing the idea of a constitutional amendment to restrict or eliminate big money in politics. The notion of amending the Constitution this way has been discussed, literally for decades. But Clinton is joining a new, if small, chorus of prominent politicians who are talking it up. "We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccounted money out of it...

Here's a question for you last-minute tax filers. See that little checkoff box at the top of the 1040 tax form , the one labeled "Presidential Election Campaign"? You didn't check it, did you? If not, then you're just like pretty much everybody else. That little box is for presidential public financing. It's on the tax form because of the Watergate scandal — because of million-dollar contributions, secret donors and government decisions favoring corporate moneymen. In 1972, Congress created...

You can still check the box on your 1040 federal income tax return and earmark $3 for presidential public financing. This Watergate-era reform was supposed to push big money out of presidential politics, but so far this cycle, not many people have checked it. Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Transcript AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Here's a question as you finish your tax return. That little checkoff box at the top of the 1040 form, the one labeled, presidential election...

As Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., prepared for his official announcement of a White House run, so had Conservative Solutions PAC. It's a superPAC focused exclusively on helping Rubio reach his goal. Technically, Conservative Solutions has no ties to Rubio. His campaign can't coordinate messages or strategy with it. But Rubio isn't the first to have a superPAC revving up at announcement time. Since 2010, when federal courts approved these "independent expenditure" groups, financed by unlimited but...

Sen. Bob Menendez , who came up in the sharp-edged politics of Hudson County, N.J., has been under varying levels of ethics scrutiny in seven of his nine-plus years as a senator. He'd never been indicted — until yesterday. The indictment landed like a chunk of loose concrete from Hudson County's Pulaski Skyway : 14 counts alleging travel, vacations and contributions in exchange for the kind of clout a senator can wield in Washington. Justice Department prosecutors called it a bribery scheme....

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET Two liberal watchdog groups are challenging the strategy that four presidential hopefuls — Republicans Jeb Bush , Scott Walker and Rick Santorum and Democrat Martin O'Malley — are using to avoid legal contribution limits and disclosure requirements. In complaints filed at the Federal Election Commission, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 say that while the four politicians all maintain that they're not even considering running for president,...

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