Peter Overby

Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.

Overby has covered scandals involving House Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill Clinton, lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others. He tracked the rise of campaign finance regulation as Congress passed campaign finance reform laws, and the rise of deregulation as Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions rolled those laws back.

During President Trump's first year in office, Overby was on a team of NPR journalists covering conflicts of interest sparked by the Trump family business. He did some of the early investigations of dark money, dissecting a money network that influenced a Michigan judicial election in 2013, and — working with the Center for Investigative Reporting — surfacing below-the-radar attack groups in the 2008 presidential election.

In 2009, Overby co-reported Dollar Politics, a multimedia series on lawmakers, lobbyists and money as the Senate debated the Affordable Care Act. The series received an award for excellence from the Capitol Hill-based Radio and Television Correspondents Association. Earlier, he won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for his coverage of the 2000 elections and 2001 Senate debate on campaign finance reform.

Prior to NPR, Overby was an editor/reporter for Common Cause Magazine, where he shared an Investigative Reporters and Editors award. He worked on daily newspapers for 10 years, and has freelanced for publications ranging from Utne Reader and the Congressional Quarterly Guide To Congress to the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET

In his annual disclosure of personal finances, President Trump acknowledged that he paid lawyer Michael Cohen between $100,000 and $250,000 last year.

Both Cohen and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani have said some of that money was to reimburse Cohen for a $130,000 hush money settlement with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump.

Michael Cohen — variously described as President Trump's lawyer, fixer or, in his words, "pit bull" — has emerged as a would-be Washington influence peddler.

AT&T, Korean Aerospace Industries, a branch of the Swiss drugmaker Novartis and an American company linked to a Russian oligarch all acknowledged they had hired Cohen after Trump's surprise victory in 2016. It appears that between January 2017 and January 2018 about $1.25 million flowed from the four companies into Cohen's Essential Consultants LLC.

As with most Trump-related controversies, it leaves questions.

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Did President Trump break campaign finance laws when his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to an adult film actress as part of a nondisclosure agreement? Or was Trump hoping the payment would smooth out his personal life?

That's still the fundamental question regarding Stormy Daniels' alleged encounter with Trump. But after a few volleys of contradictory accounts on TV and Twitter, the details are becoming clearer.

Newly filed reports show Democratic House candidates outpacing Republicans in raising money for the midterm elections. Here's what's going on:

1. Democratic donors are excited by the possibility of gaining a House majority.

As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg prepared for two congressional hearings coming this week, he gave reporters a look at his crisis-management strategy.

"We didn't take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is," he said Wednesday, referring to Facebook policies that allowed political consultants to acquire data belonging to as many as 87 million Facebook users. "And that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake."

The way some of President Trump's Cabinet officials tell it, their recent negative headlines haven't been about difficulties complying with federal ethics laws, but rather about "the optics."

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, in a House committee's hot seat last month after taking his wife on a government-funded trip to Europe, said, "I do recognize the optics of this are not good. I accept the responsibility for that."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., questioning Shulkin, snapped back: "It's not the optics that are not good. It's the facts that are not good."

The British data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica has gone from mysterious genius to potential defendant as details emerge about its role in Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. With conservative strategist Steve Bannon playing a founding role, backed by money from billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, the firm was able to develop data from 50 million Facebook users into a psychologically-based strategy to target voters.

The Federal Election Commission, better known for deadlocks than decisions, has unanimously agreed to take a first step against anonymous political advertising on the internet.

The proposed rule deals with disclaimers — the "authorized by" taglines that are mandatory in print, television and radio ads that explicitly support or attack candidates.

At least for one more day, the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania are alive with the sound of campaign cash.

Voters in the state's 18th Congressional District on Tuesday elect a new member of Congress. It's a surprisingly close race in this reliably Republican district between Democratic former prosecutor Conor Lamb and Republican state legislator Rick Saccone. GOP and conservative groups are shoveling in dollars to overcome Saccone's lackluster fundraising — this despite his claim that he "was Trump before Trump was Trump."

One regular part of White House press briefings these days is the update on corruption allegations in Trump's Cabinet.

Most recently, the questions have focused on Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who piggybacked a minivacation on taxpayer-paid travel to two conferences in Europe, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a gifted brain surgeon in trouble for ordering custom-made chairs, dining table and hutch for his office. They cost $31,000.

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Let's look now at a scandal in the Trump administration that has not made a lot of headlines. It involves several Cabinet officials and the ways they've spent taxpayer money. NPR's Peter Overby has our story.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

A federal ethics agency has ruled that one of President Trump's closest White House aides twice broke the law separating government from politics.

Kellyanne Conway, who was Trump's campaign manager in 2016, advocated for Republican Roy Moore in Alabama's recent Senate election during live television interviews broadcast from the White House lawn.

The Office of Special Counsel found Conway violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees from using their office for partisan politics.

There's nothing like adversity to get political donors reaching for their credit cards, which made 2017 – Donald Trump's first year as president – the best year yet for the Democratic nonprofit ActBlue.

A conduit more than a solicitor of cash, ActBlue has been around since 2004. It's played a role in some of the Democrats' big fundraising successes, some fueled by a candidate's personality or message, and now increasingly stoked by anger or fear.

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Updated Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. ET

President Trump's inaugural committee raised twice as much as any of its predecessors, but its final filing with the IRS shows it spent most of the money on events that were significantly scaled back from past years.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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President Trump has picked a new chief for the Office of Government Ethics, seven months after the last confirmed head of the agency quit in frustration over his conflicts with the White House.

After the Watergate scandals in the 1970s, Congress passed a series of laws to reduce the influence of big donors in politics and to increase transparency. Forty years later, those laws have been weakened by additional legislation and a series of court decisions.

Where the Watergate reforms established a single regulated system used by all candidates to finance their political campaigns, there are now three separate systems.

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Updated at 1 p.m. ET

Barely a month ago, a federal judge in New York dismissed an anti-corruption lawsuit against President Trump.

But on Thursday, another federal judge, in a different courtroom, gave the same basic argument a much friendlier response.

Judge Peter Messitte, of federal district court in Greenbelt, Md., seemed sympathetic to the assertion that Trump profits from the nexus of his hotels and the presidency.

As President Trump marks the first anniversary of his inauguration, his lawyers are preparing for next week's preliminary arguments in a suit that alleges he is violating the Constitution's anti-corruption provisions, known as the foreign and domestic Emoluments Clauses.

President Trump marks his first year in the White House on Jan. 20. Since he took the oath, he's been dogged by questions about his hundreds of businesses and the conflicts of interest they pose.

In attempts to confront Trump and force him to address these conflicts, congressional Democrats, state attorneys general and watchdog groups have sued the president. So far, their cases have not advanced very far in court. A federal judge has dismissed one suit.

Updated at 5:49 p.m. ET

The anti-corruption organization Transparency International says Americans are expressing greater concern this year about wrongdoing within the U.S. government, and especially within the White House.

Wealthy Americans may get a new conduit for political money in the tax overhaul bill now being reconciled on Capitol Hill.

A small provision in the House version of the bill would let big donors secretly give unlimited amounts to independent political groups — and write off the contributions as charitable gifts.

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