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.

Donald Trump likes to say he is self-funding his campaign. That isn't entirely true. He has actually lent his campaign about three-quarters of the $49 million or so that he has spent so far.

That means the campaign can pay him back if it has the money. But there's a deadline. Trump has 11 weeks to repay himself — exactly at the moment when he needs to pivot and start raising cash for the general election campaign.

With Bernie Sanders lopping hundreds of staffers from his campaign this week, it's easy to forget he has outraised and outspent Hillary Clinton every month this year. And not by just a little.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Bernie Sanders' campaign is accusing the Hillary Victory Fund of "serious apparent violations" of the campaign finance law. The Hillary Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee for the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and 32 state Democratic Party committees.

Is this a fact-check? No. There's a shortage of facts here, since we can't see the books of the various committees. This appears to be a political attack more than a legal case.

Organizing for Action, the grass-roots network born from the Obama campaigns, is now deep in the battle over confirming the president's nominee to the Supreme Court. These days, OFA is a nonprofit that organizes on progressive issues and trains future grass-roots gurus.

"You know this is very much an organization that is led by people out in their communities who care about the issues of the day," said Buffy Wicks, a member of OFA's board of advisers and a veteran of Obama's two presidential campaigns and his White House.

Police needed most of Monday afternoon to arrest all of the sit-down protesters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington at a demonstration in favor of changing the rules on political money, voting rights and redistricting.

The politicians who would be president have a lot to say about money, at least when they're soliciting it.

They and their sidekick superPACs have raised a combined total of around $1 billion, according to NPR calculations from data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Greenpeace and Bernie Sanders' campaign continue to hammer at Hillary Clinton's ties to what the environmental group calls the "fossil fuel industry." NPR did a fact-check last week; this is a follow-up.

It was raining lightly when marchers of the Democracy Spring coalition set out Saturday, trudging past Independence Hall in Philadelphia on their way south toward Washington, D.C.

"I came on the train. Two days. Slept in the train station last night," Miram Kashia said, laughing. A self-proclaimed climate action warrior, she traveled from North Liberty, Iowa. She blamed political money's influence for blocking action on the climate, and added, "I'm retired but it's a full time job for me, being an activist."

As Ted Cruz insists he can still overtake GOP front-runner Donald Trump and win the Republican nomination outright, the Texas senator has an innovative and well-funded alliance of superPACs supporting his effort.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's never clear what the truth is when a campaign ends, but it gets ugly.

Major fundraisers are among the people who are key in creating a campaign. And when campaigns fold, they talk sometimes — usually in blind quotes.

But one of the funders, who helped raise millions of dollars for a superPAC supporting Jeb Bush, talked on the record with NPR's Morning Edition -- and gave his version of what he felt went wrong.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The TV ad campaign for Republican Jeb Bush is faltering in South Carolina, where GOP voters go to the polls Saturday.

A new report by the Wesleyan Media Project finds that the pro-Bush superPAC, Right To Rise USA, aired an estimated 2,664 ads in the state between Feb. 1 and Feb. 14. At the same time, Sen. Ted Cruz's organization — his campaign and two superPACs — ran 4,904 ads. Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign and superPAC aired 3,882 ads.

Hillary Clinton's superPAC seemed to be essentially sitting out the primary, saving its war chest to fight Republicans in the general election. Now that's changed.

In the 10 days since Bernie Sanders thumped Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, the pro-Clinton superPAC Priorities USA Action has spent $1.3 million on her behalf.

The presidential candidates are wrestling with the issue of political money, which emerged as a bigger issue this cycle than in any presidential race since the 1970s.

Bernie Sanders started last week's Democratic debate with this point: "We have today a campaign finance system which is corrupt, which is undermining American democracy, which allows Wall Street and billionaires to pour huge sums of money into the political process."

And Hillary Clinton, closing the debate, said, "We agree that we've gotta get unaccountable money out of politics."

Here's a question for New Hampshire voters. Would you have voted for Jeb Bush if he'd given you $1,086?

Bush didn't offer that, obviously. But that's the amount his campaign and superPAC spent on TV ads in New Hampshire for each vote Bush received in the primary on Tuesday.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders both pledged their allegiance Thursday to the cause of campaign finance reform during the final Democratic presidential debate before the New Hampshire primary.

Polls show that many Americans agree: Too much money comes from too few donors. The candidates' solutions, predictably, were somewhat less certain.

SuperPACs

The Takeaways:

  • Republican candidates raised more than $227 million in 2015, less than the GOP field raised in 2011.
  • The year-end reports include the first disclosure of big money from Donald Trump and reveal the precarious state of Jeb Bush's White House bid.
  • Some wealthy conservative donors, including Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, haven't put their money behind any GOP candidate yet. Big donors on the Democratic side are behind Hillary Clinton.

Update at at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday: Sen. Ted Cruz gave the Federal Election Commission an accounting of his campaign loans Thursday evening. The Cruz for Senate treasurer acknowledged in a letter that Cruz's loans to the campaign were underwritten by a margin loan from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a managing director, and a line of credit from Citibank.

When this presidential campaign got underway last spring, the buzz was that a candidate would be propelled by passing off the heavy costs of TV advertising to a friendly superPAC. But now the opposite is true.

Donald Trump, leading the Republican field, has no superPAC. Some other superPACs are pouring cash into TV, but their candidates are stuck low in the polls.

Trump just recently started buying TV time, after months of depending on news coverage to promote his campaign.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton attended her first event for an organization called the Hillary Victory Fund. About 160 guests attended, and the event grossed more than $5 million.

The Hillary Victory Fund is a joint fundraising committee for Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic committees of 32 states and Puerto Rico.

If it seems like there are a lot more presidential ads on TV than in past campaign cycles, it's because there are.

It's a fair bet that in 1934, five years into the Great Depression and a year into the New Deal, Congress wasn't thinking about a political future that would be rife with secretly financed political groups.

Even as negotiators struggled this week at the Paris summit on climate change, Senate Republicans held a subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill to challenge the underlying science. They called it "Data or Dogma?"

An alliance of anti-establishment Republicans and Democrats in Congress is seeking to hold down at least one kind of political spending.

Hard-line conservatives say GOP leaders want to undermine Tea Party-style newcomers who challenge the Washington establishment. Progressives see their own leaders ready to write off a long-standing provision of campaign finance law, and permit big donors' money to flow more freely.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Pages