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.

The Federal Election Commission is moving to improve disclosure of the money behind Internet and digital ads, as the shadow of Russian-funded social media ads in last year's presidential race hangs over the agency.

"We can't, obviously, take over the role of the Justice Department or of Congress," Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub told other commissioners Thursday, "but I do think that we could do this little piece."

Washington used to operate one scandal at a time.

Not anymore. Here are just some of the scandals currently brewing:

  • The indictment of President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

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In a legal settlement that still awaits a federal judge's approval, the IRS "expresses its sincere apology" for mistreating a conservative organization called Linchpins of Liberty — along with 40 other conservative groups — in their applications for tax-exempt status.

And in a second case, NorCal Tea Party Patriots and 427 other groups suing the IRS also reached a "substantial financial settlement" with the government.

If there's one thing President Trump's critics want from him, and he refuses to give up, it's his tax returns.

The returns didn't come up during Wednesday's hearing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. But the hearing was the first step in a process that could loosen Trump's grip on them.

If the next step goes the plaintiffs' way, the case could make the president's tax returns surface.

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On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

As Democratic pols jettison their old contributions from Harvey Weinstein, the former entertainment executive embroiled in multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, his cash is not likely to leave a big hole in party coffers.

Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's private club and winter White House in Palm Beach, Fla., is a casual place. And so, it seems, are any official records of those who visit him there.

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Ever since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico last month, President Trump has been pointing out the commonwealth's "massive debt," as he has put it.

And then on Tuesday on Fox News, he warned Puerto Rico's investors that "you can say goodbye" to the debt issued by the battered U.S. territory.

It wasn't clear exactly what Trump meant by that. But the president's views on Puerto Rico's troubles may have been informed by his own experiences there. Not long ago, he himself ended up on the wrong side of a bet on Puerto Rico's financial health.

These are tough times for Washington's roughly 400 think tanks — the policy factories where scholars get paid to study issues and give politicians advice. Powerful external forces are reshaping the industry.

One current example is the left-leaning New America Foundation, founded in 1999. It works on public policies for the digital age. Last month it landed in the think tank industry's latest money controversy.

The federal ethics agency may be opening the door for anonymous donors to pay legal fees for White House staffers.

It could happen just as special counsel Robert Mueller draws closer to the White House in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump campaign.

Several conservative and pro-Trump groups are said to be considering creating such funds to help White House staffers who may be interviewed by investigators, but who can't afford Washington's high-priced ethics lawyers.

A watchdog group wants the feds to investigate some of the estimated 3,300 Russian-backed ads that appeared on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign.

It's been a summer of booming business at President Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel: a sweet season enhanced by the spending of foreign diplomats and lobbyists. But now a watchdog group and the Justice Department are preparing their first courtroom arguments for a lawsuit alleging the hotel was a hotbed of continuing violations by the president of the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause.

President Trump, with a well-known fondness for golf hats bearing slogans, toured post-Hurricane Houston on Tuesday wearing white headgear emblazoned with "USA." It had a U.S. flag on one side, and on the other side — maybe this was the giveaway — the numeral 45. Trump is the 45th president.

When President Trump commented last week on the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., a reporter asked him if he planned to visit the city.

Trump's reply veered far off the volatile topic of race relations: "I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days." There was crosstalk as Trump continued: "I own, I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville."

How is Washington spending tax dollars that might benefit President Trump? Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to count the ways.

The committee's 18 minority members sent letters on Tuesday to the 15 cabinet departments and nine independent executive branch agencies, requesting documents on their spending at "businesses owned by or affiliated with the Trump Organization."

They said the letters are the first step in an investigation of federal spending involving Trump companies.

As Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller investigates alleged Russian ties to the Trump presidential campaign, the White House and some Republicans in Congress are calling for a second investigation.

The proposed target is a retired woman living in a small town in New York's Hudson Valley: Hillary Clinton.

When presidential adviser Jared Kushner appeared last week in a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the focus was on his contacts with Russia representatives during the 2016 campaign.

Some critics say questions about Russian contacts are so serious that Kushner should lose his White House security clearance. But few are expecting he will get fired. He is, after all, married to the president's daughter.

Job growth seems to be strong in one of Washington's specialized professions: defense attorneys for the White House. Investigations by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees are driving the demand.

One question is this: Who is paying for all those lawyers?

Those who have recently lawyered up include President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Vice President Pence.

Last week sparked a deluge of speculation about Donald Trump Jr.'s 2016 encounter with a Russian lawyer, and what criminal charges — if any — might ensue.

But for a substantive answer, NPR asked a former federal prosecutor. Randall Eliason worked public corruption and government fraud cases; now he teaches law and writes the blog Sidebars, "a reflection on white collar crime and federal criminal law."

Walter Shaub Jr., outgoing director of the Office of Government Ethics, says there's a new normal for ethics in the Trump administration.

"Even when we're not talking strictly about violations, we're talking about abandoning the norms and ethical traditions of the executive branch that have made our ethics program the gold standard in the world until now," Shaub told All Things Considered host Robert Siegel.

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. is turning in his resignation on Thursday.

The move follows months of clashes with the White House over issues such as President Trump's refusal to divest his businesses and the administration's delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees.

Shaub, an attorney, has accepted a job with the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization of election-law experts.

President Trump, who is fond of dining at his Trump International Hotel near the White House, will have some company Wednesday — a roomful of people who paid as much as $35,000 or $100,000 each to be there.

The money will go to two joint fundraising operations — Trump Victory, which will take in large donations and Trump Make America Great Again Committee for smaller-dollar donors.

When Trump Victory started sending out invitations four weeks ago, it announced the price points, but kept the venue secret until a prospect had RSVP'd.

Updated at 5:52 p.m. ET

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee want to see White House records on the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his security clearance and his access to classified information.

In a letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the oversight panel's 18 Democrats question why Kushner's security clearance hasn't been revoked.

President Trump has updated his personal financial disclosure report from last year, and here NPR updates our December 2016 analysis of that earlier report.

The White House on Wednesday night released 14 ethics waivers — documents that exempt some top presidential aides from important ethics rules.

The disclosures came after a quiet but tough battle between Trump administration officials and the Office of Government Ethics.

The waivers are considered public documents, but for weeks after President Trump took office, they weren't made public.

In April, the Office of Government Ethics began to push the issue.

The Trump administration agreed late Friday to disclose records regarding former lobbyists it has hired, and the ethics rules it has waived for them. The move defuses a brewing conflict between the White House and one of Washington's smallest agencies, the tiny, 71-worker Office of Government Ethics.

Updated at 10:08 p.m. ET.

The Office of Government Ethics has rejected a White House attempt to block the agency's compilation of federal ethics rules waivers granted to officials hired into the Trump administration from corporations and lobbying firms.

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