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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5:13pm

Mon June 25, 2012
Law

High Court: No Reconsideration Of Citizens United

Originally published on Tue June 26, 2012 5:27 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And in another ruling, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed its controversial Citizens United decision of 2010. Today, the court overturned a century-old campaign finance law in Montana. The law barred independent political spending by corporations. NPR's Peter Overby has that story.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Montana enacted its law on independent spending after years of scandals involving big corporations influencing its state government. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock defended that law.

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12:17pm

Mon June 25, 2012
It's All Politics

Supreme Court Says Montana Cannot Ignore Citizens United Ruling

Originally published on Mon June 25, 2012 12:51 pm

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Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock sought to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down a state law restricting corporate campaign spending. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Bullock's argument, holding that "there can be no serious doubt" that Citizens United applies to Montana law.
Matthew Brown AP

The state of Montana has lost a closely watched bid to challenge Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations deploy their money to help or attack specific candidates.

Citizens United dramatically loosened the restraints on corporate involvement in political campaigns. It also set strict new limits on what's considered "corruption or the appearance of corruption" when it comes to restricting money in politics.

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3:09am

Tue June 19, 2012
Politics

A Fine Line: Distinguishing Issue Ads From Advocacy

Originally published on Tue June 19, 2012 9:48 am

7:48am

Sat June 16, 2012
Politics

McConnell Argues Against Requiring Donor Disclosure

Friday Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said it's time to roll back the Watergate-era requirement for public disclosure of campaign donors. He accused President Obama and liberals of trying to stifle the First Amendment rights of conservative donors.

5:45pm

Thu June 7, 2012
It's All Politics

There's More Secret Money In Politics; Justice Kennedy Might Be Surprised

Originally published on Thu June 7, 2012 6:39 pm

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the Citizens United opinion saying that corporations can pay for ads expressly promoting or attacking political candidates.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Federal election law has required the public disclosure of campaign donors for nearly 40 years.

But this year, outside groups are playing a powerful role in the presidential election. And some of them disclose nothing about their donors. That's despite what the Supreme Court said in its controversial Citizens United ruling two years ago.

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6:02pm

Fri June 1, 2012
Money & Politics

Why Political Ads In 2012 May All Look Alike

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 6:48 pm

Screen grabs of four separate ads from four different political groups critical of President Obama's handling of Solyndra, the failed solar-panel maker. Clockwise from top left, the ads are from: Americans for Prosperity, MittRomney.com, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS.

Among the biggest advertisers in the presidential campaign is a group that says it doesn't do political advertising: Crossroads GPS.

Crossroads GPS — which stands for Grassroots Policy Strategies — was co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove. It and others like it enable wealthy donors to finance attack ads while avoiding the public identification they would face if they gave to more overtly political committees.

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5:49am

Mon May 28, 2012
Election 2012

For A Billionaire, $2M Gets You Superdonor Status

Originally published on Mon May 28, 2012 10:25 am

Bill Koch (center) celebrates his team's 1992 America's Cup win. Koch, the brother of billionaire GOP donors Charles and David, has given $2 million to the superPAC backing Mitt Romney.
Vince Bucci AFP/Getty Images

In the world of high-dollar politics, the billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch are famous for their lavish funding of conservative politicians and causes. But there's another Koch brother — William — who is passionate about many things, but only recently about politics.

Bill Koch is an avid yachtsman, and he set out to win the 1992 America's Cup. It would take four boats, more than 260 team members and single-minded determination.

David Rosow was the team's business manager and is a longtime friend of Koch's.

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2:35am

Mon May 21, 2012
Election 2012

Secret Donors Still Find Ways To Remain Anonymous

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 11:00 am

The latest deadline for the presidential candidates and the major superPACs to disclose their finances was Sunday night. The public and the media can find out who has been giving to the candidates, and how that money was spent. But there's a lot of political spending that isn't being reported.

Outside money groups are spending millions of dollars, and the donors remain anonymous. Two recent court rulings could force those groups to file public disclosures, but there already seems to be a way around that.

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5:14pm

Thu May 3, 2012
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:43 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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3:05am

Thu May 3, 2012
Presidential Race

Gingrich Out Of The Race, But Still In Debt

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 11:42 am

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

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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