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.

In between his speakership and his presidential candidacy, Newt Gingrich built a network of organizations to promote his causes — and himself.

Informally known as Newt Gingrich Inc., those entities have flourished. But questions linger, especially about two of them: the Gingrich Group, a for-profit consulting firm; and a unit of the Gingrich Group called the Center for Health Transformation.

The supercommittee's failure puts in motion automatic budget cuts for the Pentagon of $600 billion — a process called sequestration. On Monday, even before the supercommittee flamed out, defense workers in York, Pa., rallied to protect the Pentagon budget and perhaps their own jobs.

The local congressman, Republican Todd Platts, spoke to the workers and said that Republicans and Democrats in Congress should also do their work as Americans.

The 2012 presidential campaign is already being shaped by new rules for political money. The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling allows corporations to jump into the presidential contest, as lower-court rulings and the Federal Election Commission provide new avenues through which corporate money can flow.

Polls continue to show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich solidly in the top tier of Republican presidential contenders. But at the same time, he is dogged by questions about a job he had after leaving Congress: consulting for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac — but not, he says, lobbying.

The questions began at the candidates' debate in Michigan last Wednesday, when CNBC's John Harwood asked Gingrich what he did for a $300,000 contract with Freddie Mac in 2006.

"I offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do," Gingrich said last week.

Republican Herman Cain, facing allegations of sexual harassment, returns Friday to a familiar, and presumably friendly, venue — the annual convention of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by billionaire businessmen David and Charles Koch.

The group has a long relationship with Cain. The organization first enlisted him in 2005 to spearhead what it called the Prosperity Expansion Project. Cain went on the road, networking at state chapters of AFP. When he landed in Wisconsin, he met his campaign-manager-to-be, Mark Block.

If you want to know just how unhappy Americans are with their two-party government, a group called Americans Elect is ready to tell you.

The nonprofit group has scheduled a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday in a bid to show the Democratic and Republican establishments that voters want a third choice in presidential candidates.

It's a choice Americans Elect hopes to provide. This might sound like a third political party taking the field, but the group says that's not what it is.

'A New Force'

For the first time, 100 of America's biggest corporations are being rated on the transparency of their political activities.

On Friday, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the nonpartisan Center for Political Accountability will release an index that ranks the S&P 100 companies. The rankings come as politicians employ new loopholes — and the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision — to solicit secret, million-dollar contributions from corporate donors.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The latest batch of campaign finance reports adds a little clarity to the presidential race. For starters, President Obama's campaign reported a hefty $61 million on hand as of Sept. 30. But in the Republican primary race, things are in flux.

Five states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida — are trying to squeeze their contests into January. They all hope to boost their influence on the outcome.

So far in the Republican presidential contest, the poll numbers have been continually changing, with candidates moving up and then down again. The primary dates are also in flux, with at least four states moving theirs up to January to try to influence the outcome. But there's another set of numbers to watch: the candidates' fundraising totals.

With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (once again) declining to enter the Republican presidential primary race, his core group of financial industry fundraisers – a group that had been urging him to run – went looking for new candidates to endorse.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's poll number may be sagging, but his campaign is flush with cash. Perry's campaign says it raised more than $17 million in the third quarter.

Perry entered the Republican presidential primary race in mid August with just 49 days left before the quarterly filing deadline. But in that short time he's shot to the top of the money race.

His $17 million haul likely outdoes front-runner Mitt Romney's efforts over the summer. Meanwhile, Perry's campaign says it's kept spending so low that it has $15 million cash on hand.

Presidential candidate Rick Perry's ties to campaign donors came under more scrutiny this week when he was challenged during Monday's Tea Party debate.

Perry defended taking a contribution from a drug company and then mandating use of the company's new vaccine. "I raised about $30 million, and if you're saying I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended," he said.

Actually, the drug company, Merck, has given Perry $28,500 overall. But that's still pocket change compared with what Perry's truly big donors have given.

Unions are under siege, as Republican governors have curtailed collective bargaining rights in some states. As well, national labor leaders say President Barack Obama and Democrats in Washington have let them down.

Consultants have been practically tripping over each other to launch superPACs backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry. However, some prospective donors may find presidential superPACs are a gray area.

By now there's a superPAC independently supporting every major presidential candidate. Three of these groups have surfaced to promote Perry. In California, Bob Schuman says he was ready to go before Perry was.

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