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 government's partial shutdown has turned Washington's National Mall into a bleak place. Trash cans are overflowing, museums and historic sites are shuttered. Park Service rangers and Smithsonian employees are furloughed as the shutdown drags on.

It isn't your usual bill, the For The People Act introduced Friday by House Democrats. Also known as HR 1, symbolically their first legislation, it is a 571-page compendium of existing problems and proposed solutions in four political hot zones: voting, political money, redistricting and ethics.

A pledge to pass the bill was a common theme among Democratic House candidates last year.

"We heard loud and clear from the American people," Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., told reporters Friday. "They feel left out and locked out from their own democracy."

This year has been a dismal one for ethics in Washington. Even without a repeat of the 2017 tide of sexual harassment cases in Congress and not counting the results of the Mueller investigation, the D.C. "swamp" remains as stagnant as ever.

It was a year when President Trump pushed out three of his own Cabinet officers over ethics concerns: Secretary David Shulkin at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Ryan Zinke at Interior and Administrator Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

It's been a bad year for ethics in Washington. That's true even when you set aside the Russia mess. NPR's Peter Overby has the story.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Last month, Ross Spano won the race to represent Florida's 15th Congressional District. But there's now talk of investigations into how the Republican lawmaker financed his campaign. Here's NPR's Peter Overby.

In a case that could shed light on the finances of the secretive Trump Organization, a federal judge has signed orders to issue 30 subpoenas on behalf of the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia in their lawsuit alleging that President Trump is profiting from foreign and state governments' spending at the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

A federal ethics agency is telling civil servants to avoid workplace talk about impeachment and #resistance for the next 705 days — until the day after Election Day 2020.

The memo from the Office of Special Counsel also warns federal employees not to engage in "strong criticism or praise of a presidential administration's policies and actions." The only presidential administration right now is President Trump's. The document was circulated to ethics officials across the government this week.

The midterm elections illuminated a gap in Republican fundraising. While wealthy conservatives continued to fund party committees and superPACs, Democrats beat Republicans in the contest for small-donor contributions.

In 73 hot House races, Democrats raised more than $62 million from donors of $200 or less. Republicans raised barely $27 million.

Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January with big items topping their legislative to-do list: Remove obstacles to voting, close loopholes in government ethics law and reduce the influence of political money.

Party leaders say the first legislative vote in the House will come on H.R. 1, a magnum opus of provisions that Democrats believe will strengthen U.S. democratic institutions and traditions.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

Voters in more than a dozen states will vote on ballot questions next Tuesday to enact stringent laws on campaign finance and other government ethics issues affecting state and local lawmakers.

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