KETR

Peter Overby

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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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

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.

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.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

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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