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.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Next we're going to unravel another potential political scandal. It involves a tax-exempt advocacy group with ties to President Obama. Organizing for Action is saying it broke its own rules against hooking up big donors with White House officials. Critics are unimpressed. NPR's Peter Overby breaks it down for us.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, OFA. Hey.

With members of the House and Senate scrapping over a Ukraine aid bill, Republicans say a magic bullet could break the logjam.

It has nothing to do with the former Soviet republic, its ability to withstand Russia's military intervention in Crimea, or this weekend's referendum in the Ukrainian territory.

It has everything to do with conservatives' fury at the IRS, which they say has waged a partisan, and unconstitutional, war against President Obama's opponents.

The campaign for a congressional seat in St. Petersburg, Fla., will have seen some $10 million in spending by candidates and outside groups. Where did all of this money go?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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