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.

Three advocacy organizations — across ideological lines — are telling congressional investigators to back off in a probe of EPA ties to a leading environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana are leading the investigation. They contend that NRDC lobbyists have exerted too much influence over EPA on the issues of carbon reduction and the proposed Pebble Mine at Bristol Bay, Alaska.

A new analysis takes aim at one of political science's evergreen topics: What do donors get in exchange for their campaign contributions?

The answer, according to three researchers at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, is that "investments in on-going access to policymakers are associated with future tax benefits."

Every election cycle, big donors open their checkbooks for the Republican State Leadership Committee and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, two Washington-based party organizations that are gradually remaking state legislative elections.

How much power should corporations wield in Washington? It's an enduring question — and now the Sunlight Foundation has devised a new way to gauge that power.

It's a record most Alaskans might wish they could give back: The Center for Public Integrity calculates that KTUU TV in Anchorage ran more U.S. Senate ads this cycle than any other television station in the country — 12,300 in all.

Those Senate spots made up the bulk of the 13,400 political ads since January. KTUU General Manager Andrew MacLeod says 2014 was the the station's busiest year ever. By contrast, off-year 2013 was relatively light.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now another story of big, political money coming to small-town America. In Cole County, Missouri, a circuit court judge is fighting to stay on the bench. Her challenger was underfunded until he got some outside help. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

When you talk about "outside" money in politics, there's a good chance you'll talk about billionaire activists David and Charles Koch.

Especially if you're Harry Reid. The Senate majority leader regularly takes to the Senate floor to slam the Kochs for financing a network of conservative groups. Back in March, he said he was criticizing "two very wealthy brothers who intend to buy their own Congress, a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy."

Here's an odd twist in the midterm elections: Even though Republicans are generally expected to keep their majority in the House, it's the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that is raking in the bucks.

A big reason for the difference lies in online fundraising.

Republican Party leaders are urging big donors to start writing checks, and the check-writers now include Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Tommy Boggs, a longtime lobbyist who in many ways epitomized the Washington establishment, has died. His sister, Morning Edition commentator Cokie Roberts, said he apparently had a heart attack.

Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., 73, pioneered a new, more professional way of lobbying starting in the 1960s, when he saw how power in Washington was becoming more diffuse. Clout on Capitol Hill spread from the House and Senate leadership to more junior members, especially in reforms after the Watergate scandal. In the executive branch, the number of regulatory agencies increased.

Rich families sustain American politics. Some produce candidates; others supply money. And in rare instances, a family will do both.

Meet Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of Ending Spending, an independent political organization that's among the top 10 spenders this election cycle. Three of his four children are politically active, including one who's running for governor.

A Billionaire With Political Punch

A former Iowa state senator says he concealed money he took for shifting loyalty from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul during the 2012 presidential campaign.

There's always a certain amount of weirdness in the Iowa presidential caucuses, and in the 2012 cycle the peak weirdness might have come just before New Year's. Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson, the Iowa chairman for Bachmann's campaign, jumped to the Paul campaign six days before the voting — immediately setting off rumors that he had taken a payoff for switching sides.

Finally, we now have a detailed IRS account of its attempts to resurrect the long-gone hard drive in Lois Lerner's computer.

But it's not definitive.

Lerner headed the tax-exempt organizations division in 2011, when it was dealing with hundreds of applications from conservative groups. They wanted status as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, so they could raise unlimited sums without identifying the donors and engage in extensive political activity.

Members of Congress face a deadline next Thursday — 90 days before the election — to put constituent newsletters in the mail. Carefully timing the mailings is just one fillip in the fine art of congressional communications, especially those that might suggest campaign messages.

Senate Democrats have rolled out this year's model of the DISCLOSE Act. Or, if you want to be more formal: the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act.

It's the third version of DISCLOSE since 2010. Broadly speaking, it would force donor disclosure on the big-money, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that are flourishing in post-Citizens United politics. Unlike almost all other players in an election campaign, 501(c)(4)s are not covered by the disclosure laws. Their donors are never publicly named.

Georgia Republicans picked their Senate nominee Tuesday night. Former corporate CEO David Perdue will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the November general election.

Nunn, the daughter of a popular former senator, is among several Democratic female candidates who are showing strength as the party tries to preserve its Senate majority. She's also considered a real contender to turn the Georgia seat Democratic.

Here's the biggest recurring theme in the IRS controversy — the one about alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Throughout the yearlong investigation, congressional Republicans and Democrats have not only highlighted their own evidence but also taken the same evidence and drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. On Capitol Hill today, the House Ways & Means Committee drilled down on one question - what happened to Lois Lerner's e-mails? Lerner is the former official who was at the center of an IRS controversy last year. She oversaw agents who investigated advocacy groups and delayed the applications for tax except status. Conservatives say their groups were unfairly targeted. NPR's Peter Overby was at today's hearing, and he filed this report.

With new technology came a new type of Washington scandal: missing emails.

In the latest instance, the vanished emails belonged to Lois Lerner, former head of the exempt organizations division at IRS. She's the official who oversaw the scrutiny of applicants for tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4) social welfare groups — a process that conservatives allege was meant to block Tea Party groups.

The controversy blew up just over a year ago. Lerner was pushed out of the IRS; the House cited her for contempt of Congress.

In a newly issued report, a group of 11 theologians goes where the pols and lawyers dare not tread, with a faith-based analysis of money's role in politics. In "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy," published by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, you can guess where it comes down on the big questions.

The tract asserts that the current political money system — with superPACs, secretive social welfare organizations and unlimited contributions — "does not take into account the needs of the poor."

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