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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It's All Politics
3:14 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Do Campaign Ads Seem More Negative This Year? It's Not Just You

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:43 am

If you thought the presidential primaries were extraordinarily negative, now there's statistical evidence that you were right.

A new analysis of TV ads finds that 70 percent of the messages were negative — a trend spearheaded by the heavily financed superPACs supporting the candidates. At this point in the 2008 election, 91 percent of TV ads were positive.

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Presidential Race
1:05 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Gingrich Out Of The Race, But Still In Debt

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pauses while announcing that he is suspending his presidential campaign Wednesday in Arlington, Va.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 9:42 am

Newt Gingrich is officially out of the presidential race. The former House speaker said Wednesday that he's suspending his campaign, and he's ready to help the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, battle President Obama. But Gingrich might have a more pressing problem: His campaign has about $4 million in debt.

In Gingrich's exit speech, he opened by thanking people — first his family, then his financial backers.

"I also want to single out, first of all, the over 179,000 donors who helped us at Newt.org and who helped make the campaign possible," he said.

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Election 2012
1:32 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Romney's Big-Dollar 'Bundlers' Stay Anonymous

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters in Aston, Pa., on April 23.
Jessica Kourkounis Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 8:07 am

Every presidential nominee going back to 2000 has revealed the names of influential supporters known as "bundlers" because of the way they persuade others to give money to a candidate. Every nominee, that is, until Mitt Romney.

The most anyone can give directly to any presidential campaign is $5,000, and everyone who gives that much is listed in the Romney campaign's monthly disclosures.

When it comes to the bundlers, though, the campaign chooses to keep those names secret.

Voluntary Disclosure

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It's All Politics
3:20 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

As The Campaign Hits Cruising Altitude, Critics Again Target Presidential Travel

President Obama boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, en route to Florida, on April 10. Whenever a president runs for re-election, his travel tends to become a political issue.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 3:37 pm

The White House has been fielding questions lately about President Obama's travel — what's official, what's political and whether taxpayers are getting stuck with the bill. It's the same issue that rolls around every time a president runs for re-election.

Take President Obama's trip to Florida earlier this month. It featured an official presidential speech on the economy at Florida Atlantic University. On the same trip, the president hit two fundraisers.

How do you sort that out?

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Politics
2:42 am
Mon April 23, 2012

Charity Status Of Conservative Group Challenged

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 4:36 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Opponents have intensified a campaign against a group that drafts and promotes bills for state lawmakers to enact. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, says it stands for limited government, free markets and federalism. The corporate-funded group has promoted much debated ideas - from voter ID rules to stand your ground gun laws.

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It's All Politics
2:43 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Presidential Fundraising Numbers Poised To Skyrocket

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 3:11 pm

The latest financial numbers are coming out Friday from the campaigns of President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — along with the superPACs that love them.

First, the easy numbers: $53 million was raised in March to re-elect Obama and $12.6 million was raised by the Romney campaign to win the Republican primaries.

But those easy numbers don't give a complete picture.

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Politics
2:42 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

Conservative Group Criticized For Tax-Exempt Status

Originally published on Thu April 19, 2012 4:34 pm

Yum Brands, the company that owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, says it's the latest corporation to break ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council — a group that brings state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists together to write legislation.

Liberal groups are pressuring corporations to abandon ALEC, and a dozen companies have now dropped out.

This week, ALEC did some damage control. It said it is shutting down its task force on public safety and elections, which wrote controversial measures on voter ID, "stand your ground" and immigration reform.

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Governing
1:31 am
Thu April 5, 2012

Boycotts Hitting Group Behind 'Stand Your Ground'

Selina Gray of Sanford, Fla., shows her sign at a rally protesting the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Authorities have cited the state's "stand your ground" law as a reason charges have not been filed in Martin's death.
Julie Fletcher AP

Originally published on Thu April 5, 2012 8:37 am

Two of America's best-known companies, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have dropped their memberships in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a low-profile conservative organization behind the national proliferation of "stand your ground" gun laws.

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Around the Nation
2:00 am
Tue March 27, 2012

Koch Brothers Move To Control Cato Institute

Libertarians say it's like watching dear friends in an ugly divorce, as the billionaire Koch brothers try to take control of the highly regarded Cato Institute. The head of Cato says the Kochs are out to politicize the think tank.

Money & Politics
2:44 am
Wed March 21, 2012

Romney, SuperPAC Outspend Rivals Combined

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 8:23 am

As Mitt Romney decisively won the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday night, financial reports filed at the Federal Election Commission showed that Romney and a superPAC supporting him yet again spent more than all of his GOP opponents combined.

The reports cover the month of February, which started with Romney's win in Nevada and ended with contests in Michigan and Arizona, which the former Massachusetts governor also won.

In between, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took three smaller states.

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Election 2012
1:41 am
Tue March 20, 2012

For A Personal Cause, Casino Owner Bets On Gingrich

Sheldon Adelson speaks at the 2008 "Facing Tomorrow" Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
David Silverman Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 25, 2012 7:05 am

One of the defining elements of the 2012 presidential campaign is money. Not that the candidates themselves have raised all that much; except for President Obama, they haven't. But two dozen wealthy Americans have put in at least $1 million each.

Mostly, they're a mix of Wall Street financiers and entrepreneurs. One of the biggest donors is Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who is worth about $25 billion.

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Money & Politics
10:01 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Low-Profile SuperPAC Targets Powerful Incumbents

The superPAC Campaign for Primary Accountability is taking aim at Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus and other congressional incumbents.
YouTube

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Money & Politics
4:05 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Pro-Romney SuperPAC Spent Big On Super Tuesday

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at a town hall meeting in Bexley, Ohio, last month. Romney won Ohio by less than 1 percent in Tuesday's primary.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 8:39 am

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's six primary wins on Super Tuesday didn't come cheap. An NPR analysis shows that last week alone, the Romney campaign and the pro-Romney superPAC combined spent nearly $7 million on TV ads.

Less than $1 million of that was spent by Romney's official campaign, while the pro-Romney superPAC Restore Our Future — which has almost exclusively engaged in negative advertising this year — spent $5.7 million.

That's compared to $220,000 spent on ads last week by the superPAC supporting former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

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Mitt Romney
10:01 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Romney's Wins Have Come With Negative Messages

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters at a town hall meeting at Taylor Winfield in Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Tue March 6, 2012 10:13 am

It's Super Tuesday for the Republican presidential contenders, and 10 states are holding primaries and caucuses.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hopes he can firm up his front-runner status — a status that, an NPR analysis shows, has so far involved his campaign and a pro-Romney superPAC burying the opposition with negative messages.

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Election 2012
10:01 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Romney Outspends GOP Field Combined In January

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 4:15 pm

The financial battle for the Republican nomination is tightening. Candidates spent a lot of cash in January — what with contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Also spending a lot of money, as it turns out, were the richly financed superPACS that support the candidates.

Reports filed at the Federal Election Commission on Monday night show just how important a superPAC can be.

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Money & Politics
10:01 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

White House And SuperPAC: How Close Is Too Close?

Bill Burton, shown during a news briefing at the White House in January, is now with pro-Obama superPAC Priorities USA Action. He says the superPAC is "careful to make sure that we are in compliance with the rules."
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 7:34 am

President Obama's decision to have White House officials and Cabinet secretaries help raise money for a pro-Obama superPAC is raising questions.

The superPAC, Priorities USA Action — which is supposed to be independent of the president's re-election campaign — is launching a new effort to bring in six- and seven-figure contributions.

By law, it cannot coordinate its messaging with Obama's re-election campaign committee. But coordinating other things? That's possible.

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Presidential Race
10:01 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Powerful GOP-Linked SuperPAC Has Clear Agenda

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 7:00 am

As some superPACS throw millions of dollars into the Republican primaries, others, such as American Crossroads, are quietly preparing for the day after the primaries end.

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NPR Story
4:26 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Obama Changes Tone On SuperPACS, Endorses Own

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 4:31 pm

As a candidate and as president, Barack Obama has disparaged the role of big money in politics. At his 2010 State of the Union address, he even called out the Supreme Court for a ruling that opened the door to unlimited personal and business contributions. But, faced with a Republican opposition that's raising millions from a handful of sources, President Obama let his fundraisers loose to play the game too.

It's All Politics
3:09 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Campaign Finance Reports Show Ups And Downs For Candidates, SuperPACs

A new disclosure report documents how Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry lost his fundraising base. Donors gave up long before Perry dropped out two weeks ago.

The Texas governor Perry launched his campaign back in August with a gusher of cash from conservative allies, especially in his home state.

He gathered up nearly $7 million in the first three weeks, which turned out to be more than double what he got over the past three months.

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Presidential Race
3:08 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Gingrich Fights Against The Lobbyist Label

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks Thursday during a Lakeside Inn Tea Party rally in Mount Dora, Fla.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 26, 2012 4:27 pm

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to fend off accusations that he should wear the scarlet "L" — for "lobbyist." This week, he released two of his consulting contracts and said they didn't call for any lobbying.

Like many other former lawmakers, Gingrich was advocating for paying clients, while not officially registering as a lobbyist.

The two contracts disclosed this week came from Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant. Between 1999 and 2007, Freddie Mac paid his firm $1.6 million.

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Presidential Race
4:04 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Gingrich Campaign Rides A Financial Roller Coaster

Casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, at the Marina Bay Sands complex in Singapore in June. The Adelsons have donated $5 million each to the pro-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future.
Roslan Rahman AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 5:43 pm

Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign celebrated his win in the South Carolina Republican primary with a so-called money bomb, a fundraising push to raise as much as possible.

It was a success. But its importance also shows the precarious financial state of Gingrich's campaign.

Spokesman R.C. Hammond says the campaign first set a target of $1 million, then doubled it and met it, all within 48 hours.

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Politics
2:00 am
Fri January 20, 2012

As 'Citizens United' Turns 2, SuperPACs Draw Protests

Dozens of televisions display a political advertisement with the image of GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich at a store in Urbandale, Iowa, on Dec. 27. Republican candidates and their superPACs have spent millions on television and radio ads.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 11:28 am

Saturday is South Carolina's Republican presidential primary. It's also the second anniversary of the Supreme Court's famous Citizens United decision.

That's the case that allows corporations to explicitly support or attack specific candidates. The day will be marked with attack ads — and protests.

The Republican presidential race has covered just three states so far. And superPACs linked to candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have spent a total of $20 million. They're feeding voters a heavy diet of negativity.

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It's All Politics
10:01 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

$5M Check From Casino Magnate Gives Gingrich Boost

The South Carolina primary is a week from Saturday. Before then, voters there can expect to be inundated with ads attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his role in Bain Capital.

"We made a $3.4 million ad buy in South Carolina, which is fairly significant," says Rick Tyler, senior adviser to the pro-Newt Gingrich SuperPAC Winning Our Future.

"Fairly significant" hardly does justice to the SuperPAC's plan.

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Election 2012
10:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Attacking Super PACs Fueled By Anonymous Donors

A screen grab from an anti-Newt Gingrich ad from the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.
Restore Our Future, Inc.

Originally published on Thu January 5, 2012 6:23 am

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Politics
1:54 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

Future Dim For 100-Watt Bulb, Despite Congress' Stall

The trillion-dollar budget bill that Congress passed last weekend includes plenty of non-spending provisions tucked into it. One of these so-called riders is aimed at saving the 100-watt incandescent light bulb.

But the move is more about politics than light.

Strictly speaking, the issue is this: Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs waste a lot of energy. So under federal law, they're being slowly phased out. The first to go, starting on New Year's Day, is the 100-watt bulb.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Report: Wealthy 'Elite Donors' Fueling U.S. Politics

A report released by the Sunlight Foundation finds that in the 2010 midterm elections, 26,783 donors nationwide gave more than $10,000 each.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:10 pm

A tiny percentage of very wealthy Americans funded a relatively large chunk of the 2010 congressional midterm races, continuing a trend that has been growing for two decades, according to a new analysis of political contributions.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.

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Newt Gingrich
11:27 am
Mon December 5, 2011

Gingrich's Health Care Consultancy: Is It Lobbying?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, shown at an event on health care on Capitol Hill this March, founded the Center for Health Transformation.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 5, 2011 5:27 pm

In between his speakership and his presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich built a network of organizations to promote his causes — and himself.

Informally known as Newt Gingrich Inc., those entities have flourished. But questions linger, especially about two of them: the Gingrich Group, a for-profit consulting firm; and a unit of the Gingrich Group called the Center for Health Transformation.

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Governing
11:25 am
Wed November 23, 2011

Defense Workers Lobby To Prevent Automatic Cuts

U.S. Army mine-resistant armored vehicles (MRAPs) and Afghan National Army vehicles pass through a village during a joint patrol in the Jalrez Valley in Afghanistan's Wardak province. On Monday, factory workers who produce MRAPs in York, Pa., rallied to protect the Pentagon budget against the automatic budget cuts that will take effect in 2013.
Maya Alleruzzo AP

Originally published on Wed November 23, 2011 4:53 pm

The supercommittee's failure puts in motion automatic budget cuts for the Pentagon of $600 billion — a process called sequestration. On Monday, even before the supercommittee flamed out, defense workers in York, Pa., rallied to protect the Pentagon budget and perhaps their own jobs.

The local congressman, Republican Todd Platts, spoke to the workers and said that Republicans and Democrats in Congress should also do their work as Americans.

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It's All Politics
10:01 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Illegal During Watergate, Unlimited Campaign Contributions Now Fair Game

President Richard Nixon faced television cameras in the Oval Office on April 30, 1973 to announce the departure of his two closest assistants in the deepening Watergate scandal.
CBS AP

Originally published on Wed November 16, 2011 2:23 pm

The 2012 presidential campaign is already being shaped by new rules for political money. The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling allows corporations to jump into the presidential contest, as lower-court rulings and the Federal Election Commission provide new avenues through which corporate money can flow.

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Newt Gingrich
3:27 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Why Did Freddie Mac Pay Newt Gingrich $300,000?

Polls continue to show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich solidly in the top tier of Republican presidential contenders. But at the same time, he is dogged by questions about a job he had after leaving Congress: consulting for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac — but not, he says, lobbying.

The questions began at the candidates' debate in Michigan last Wednesday, when CNBC's John Harwood asked Gingrich what he did for a $300,000 contract with Freddie Mac in 2006.

"I offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do," Gingrich said last week.

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