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.

For members of Congress, August can be a time to reconnect with voters back home. One favorite way to do so has been the town hall meeting.

But this year, with voters angrier than ever, many lawmakers are choosing not to hold those meetings.

In Minnesota, one Republican freshman is trying to navigate his district's political currents.

'I Will Do My Best'

When he was running for Congress last year, Chip Cravaack told the same story, over and over, about how a town hall meeting — or the lack of one — had gotten him into politics.

The 12 lawmakers on the new deficit-cutting supercommittee have their hands full. They're under orders to bring Congress a plan for cutting the deficit by more than a trillion dollars, and to do it before Thanksgiving.

At the same time, they're also raising funds for their next campaigns, and that could be a problem if the supercommittee is under pressure to bite the hand that feeds them money.

Last week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that concerns about supercommittee members and their fundraising are silly.

At first glance, the presidential candidates' quarterly financial reports reveal three winners.

President Obama's fundraising operation outperformed all of the Republican campaigns combined. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney raised four times as much as the next closest Republican, Rep. Ron Paul. And Rep. Michele Bachmann, despite not announcing officially until mid-June, swept in enough money to startle rivals who had been in the race much longer.

But look deeper, and the picture gets more complicated, especially among the Republicans.

Show-biz celebrities just gravitate toward someplace in Washington: Capitol Hill, the White House, certain restaurants. But on Thursday, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert showed up at the Federal Election Commission, which was weighing his bid to launch a political action committee.

TV camera crews turned out, Colbert tweeted, and a crowd gathered. And along the way, the FEC made two significant decisions that could affect players in the 2012 elections.

'We Won! I Am A SuperPAC, And So Can You'

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow, but not a fatal one, to public campaign financing, with a 5-4 decision striking down a central provision of an Arizona law.

The Arizona law offers public funds to state legislative and executive-branch candidates who abide by tight contribution and spending limits. Another provision gives additional dollars when publicly funded candidates face big-spending opponents or outside money groups — and that's what was rejected by Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority.

This week marks a milestone in the presidential race. At midnight Thursday, the second quarter ends, and the campaigns have to tally up their first financial reports of the election cycle.

The filing deadline isn't until July 15, so it's now high season for speculation about who's got enough campaign money and who doesn't.

President Obama was back in New York City this week, where at three fundraisers in one evening, he revived for donors their 2008 vision of what America could be.

A new loophole is being pried open in the campaign finance rules. It would enable federal candidates to once again solicit corporate money to finance organizations that promise to help them get elected.

The idea comes from a lawyer who has done more than anyone else over the years to upset the status quo in America's political money laws — James Bopp Jr., of Terre Haute, Ind.

President Obama and the first lady attended a total of six fundraising events last week, half of them small gatherings with top-dollar donors. They also got a reminder of what comes with reliance on high rollers: An unflattering analysis of how many big givers in 2008 wound up with jobs in the administration.

Some student food favorites are under attack in Washington. The Agriculture Department has released new standards for school nutrition and has published them for public comment. Speaking right up are lobbyists for the food industry.

The standards, the first new version since 1994, would limit starchy vegetables to two servings a week. That guideline covers corn, peas, lima beans, and a hot item in the serving line — french fries.

But the CEO of the National Potato Council, John Keeling, says not so fast.

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