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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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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Presidential Race
3:37 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Interactive: 2012 Campaign Cash, Week By Week

Texas Gov. Rick Perry saw his fundraising numbers plummet after his September debate performances.

Jeff Swensen Getty Images

The latest batch of campaign finance reports adds a little clarity to the presidential race. For starters, President Obama's campaign reported a hefty $61 million on hand as of Sept. 30. But in the Republican primary race, things are in flux.

Five states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida — are trying to squeeze their contests into January. They all hope to boost their influence on the outcome.

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Election 2012
10:01 pm
Sun October 16, 2011

Financial Reports Shed Little Light On GOP Race

So far in the Republican presidential contest, the poll numbers have been continually changing, with candidates moving up and then down again. The primary dates are also in flux, with at least four states moving theirs up to January to try to influence the outcome. But there's another set of numbers to watch: the candidates' fundraising totals.

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It's All Politics
9:40 am
Thu October 6, 2011

With Christie Out, His Moneymen Go Shopping For A New Candidate

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turns to leave a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton on Tuesday after he announced that he will not run for president in 2012.

Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 9:57 am

With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (once again) declining to enter the Republican presidential primary race, his core group of financial industry fundraisers – a group that had been urging him to run – went looking for new candidates to endorse.

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It's All Politics
10:00 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Rick Perry Raised $17 Million In Partial 3rd Qtr After Entering GOP Race Late

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's poll number may be sagging, but his campaign is flush with cash. Perry's campaign says it raised more than $17 million in the third quarter.

Perry entered the Republican presidential primary race in mid August with just 49 days left before the quarterly filing deadline. But in that short time he's shot to the top of the money race.

His $17 million haul likely outdoes front-runner Mitt Romney's efforts over the summer. Meanwhile, Perry's campaign says it's kept spending so low that it has $15 million cash on hand.

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Rick Perry
2:15 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Perry Donor's Radioactive Waste Site Deal Scrutinized

A large earth-mover carries PCB-contaminated soil from the Hudson River in New York to a burial pit at Waste Control Specialists near Andrews, Texas, in October 2009.
Betsy Blaney AP

Originally published on Thu September 15, 2011 7:39 pm

Presidential candidate Rick Perry's ties to campaign donors came under more scrutiny this week when he was challenged during Monday's Tea Party debate.

Perry defended taking a contribution from a drug company and then mandating use of the company's new vaccine. "I raised about $30 million, and if you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended," he said.

Actually, the drug company, Merck, has given Perry $28,500 overall. But that's still pocket change compared with what Perry's truly big donors have given.

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Politics
4:48 am
Mon September 5, 2011

Labor's Political Clout Faces Growing Challenges

Unions are under siege, as Republican governors have curtailed collective bargaining rights in some states. As well, national labor leaders say President Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington have let them down.

Politics
1:38 pm
Sat September 3, 2011

Restrictions On SuperPACs Not Super Clear

Consultants have been practically tripping over each other to launch superPACs backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry. However, some prospective donors may find presidential superPACs are a gray area.

By now there's a superPAC independently supporting every major presidential candidate. Three of these groups have surfaced to promote Perry. In California, Bob Schuman says he was ready to go before Perry was.

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Politics
10:07 am
Thu August 25, 2011

In Summer Of Angry Voters, Whither The Town Hall?

For members of Congress, August can be a time to reconnect with voters back home. One favorite way to do so has been the town hall meeting.

But this year, with voters angrier than ever, many lawmakers are choosing not to hold those meetings.

In Minnesota, one Republican freshman is trying to navigate his district's political currents.

'I Will Do My Best'

When he was running for Congress last year, Chip Cravaack told the same story, over and over, about how a town hall meeting — or the lack of one — had gotten him into politics.

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Politics
10:01 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Supercommittee At Risk With Campaign Donors

The 12 lawmakers on the new deficit-cutting supercommittee have their hands full. They're under orders to bring Congress a plan for cutting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars, and to do it before Thanksgiving.

At the same time, they're also raising funds for their next campaigns, and that could be a problem if the supercommittee is under pressure to bite the hand that feeds them money.

Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that concerns about supercommittee members and their fundraising are silly.

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