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.

Florida mailman and gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes has pleaded guilty to one felony for his campaign-finance reform caper last April. He landed his flying machine on the Capitol lawn before authorities apprehended him.

He meant to deliver individual letters to all senators and House members, urging them to clamp down on superPACs, "dark money" groups and millionaire donors. That didn't work out. He was arrested; Capitol police confiscated the letters and prosecutors hit him with six charges.

The superPAC backing Jeb Bush seemed to have everything it needed. It went into the primaries with the most money by far. Right to Rise USA had raised $103 million by June 30, with plenty of help from Bush before he officially announced his candidacy and could no longer legally ask for big contributions.

In September, Right to Rise put the money to work, announcing it would buy $24 million worth of TV ads in the first three nominating states: Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Bernie Sanders proudly says he doesn't have a superPAC — one of those unshackled political committees that raise and spend unlimited money that the candidate couldn't accept.

No political consultant could write an ad as glowing as billionaire Paul Singer's email for Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

"He is ready to be an informed and assertive decision-maker," Singer wrote in the email, which was first published by the New York Times. He went on for nearly two pages about Rubio: "his youth and vigor.... his unmatched ability to articulate a public argument.... the best explainer of conservatism in public life today."

Donald Trump has run his presidential campaign by his own rules, and he's blown past traditional candidates, playing by the old rules, in the process.

Make America Great Again. It's Donald Trump's campaign slogan. It's on the caps his campaign sells to admirers, and it's also the name of an ostensibly independent superPAC.

Or it was until this week, when the superPAC said it was going out of business. It ran aground on stories in the Washington Post, revealing connections linking the superPAC with Trump's campaign and his office.

Jesse Benton, a long-time adviser to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been acquitted in a federal corruption probe of former Rep. Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

The juggernaut that was supposed to be Jeb Bush's presidential campaign is looking smaller than predicted.

Bush's campaign says it raised $13.4 million in the third quarter. Campaign manager Danny Diaz noted the number is double the quarterly totals of Bush protege Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who both lead Bush in polls.

The political network led by billionaires David and Charles Koch is building what's meant to be a seamless system of grass-roots groups, designed to advance the network's conservative and libertarian goals year in and year out, while also helping like-minded politicians.

This strategy could have come straight out of a labor union's handbook, or an Obama campaign memo: community organizing.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



There's a fresh look at how transparent major companies are when it comes to their political activity.

More than two dozen companies on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index scored 90 percent or better, out of 100, in the new rankings.

A potentially controversial sentence in the prepared text of Pope Francis' address went unspoken when he delivered the speech to Congress.

The line appears to challenge the dominant role of money in American politics.

A paragraph in the prepared text quotes briefly from the Declaration of Independence — the passage on self-evident truths — and then says, "If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance."

What would it take to make the White House wannabes stop chasing after big donors? From 1975 to 1999, the answer was federal matching funds — money that candidates could get by raising more money from small donors and spending less time schmoozing with the well-heeled.

Now, the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund, an advocate of more limits on campaign money, has produced a model of how that would affect the early stages of the 2016 race. The analysis assumes a 6-to-1 match, so the match would turn a $200 contribution into $1,400 for the candidate.

Opportunity and Freedom PAC, and its two siblings, Opportunity and Freedom PAC numbers 1 and 2, were meant to be heavyweight sluggers for Republican Rick Perry, providing big-budget support for his second presidential bid.

But Perry himself turned out to be a welterweight at best. The former Texas governor entered the race late, raised a skimpy $1.1 million by June 30 and "suspended" his campaign barely two months later.

Nobody on Capitol Hill underestimates the lobbying clout of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. For six decades — almost since the birth of Israel — AIPAC has presented itself as the deliberately bipartisan, and frequently victorious, voice of American-Israeli unity.

It has maintained this emphasis on bipartisanship even as American views of Israel have grown more partisan. Israel's politics have turned sharply rightward and are now much more closely aligned with American Republicans than with Democrats.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Late August may be the absolutely worst time to launch a political TV blitz. But a Democratic superPAC, Priorities USA Action, is offering up a minicampaign this week and next, warning Republicans that their heated rhetoric on immigration is captured on videotape and being prepped for prime time later in the race.

When billionaire developer Donald Trump entered the presidential race two months ago, he drew a sharp line between other candidates — needy candidates, always trading favors for money — and himself.

"I'm really rich. I assure you of that," he said as supporters cheered. "And by the way, I'm not even saying that in a bragga — that's the kind of mindset, that's the kind of thinking, you need for this country."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



It was hard not to notice Rick Perry's plight last month, when the Republican presidential campaigns filed their financial disclosures. The former Texas governor's total take so far is $1.1 million. Cash on hand as of June 30 was $884,000. For comparison, fellow Texan Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign raised $14.3 million, with $8.5 million on hand.

But even as Perry For President Inc. is cutting its payroll, his people have a rescue plan. If it works, it's likely to set a new standard for how presidential campaigns are financed.

Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig, a longtime critic of big political money, has set the stage for a presidential bid.

In what may be a perhaps-almost-final word on the 2013 IRS controversy and alleged targeting of Tea Party groups, a two-year bipartisan Senate investigation found the agency needs to cut through bureaucratic red tape and institute better communication and management.

But members of the Senate Finance Committee, which issued the report, were largely split along party lines on the question of why the IRS went off the rails.

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," "trick" and "scheme."

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.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit