New Report: Behind Closed Doors at the White House, Obama Administration Politicizes the Regulatory Process

by Rena Steinzor | November 28, 2011

When former Harvard Law Professor and eclectic intellectual Cass Sunstein was named administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), conservative, industry-oriented Wall Street Journal editorial writers enthused that his appointment was a “promising sign.” A slew of subsequent events has proved their optimism well placed, as we have noted repeatedly in CPRBlog. 

But nothing beats hard, empirical evidence.  In a report released today, CPR announces the results of an exhaustive six-month analysis of the barebones information OIRA has eked onto the web regarding 1,080 meetings held over a ten-year period (October 2001-June 2011) with 5,759 outside lobbyists, 65 percent of whom represented industry and 12 percent of whom represented public interest groups.  The results were shocking even to us, long-time and admittedly jaded observers of OIRA’s one-way ratchet toward weakening public health and other protections.  

  • Obama’s OIRA changes more rules than Bush’s did. The Obama Administration has further entrenched a regulatory system in which White House officials trump agency expertise with decisions based on raw politics. While the Bush Administration changed 64 percent of regulations under this process, the Obama Administration has changed 76 percent.
  • Industry dominates the OIRA meetings process. OIRA makes no effort to balance its meeting schedule by hearing from even a rough equivalence of organizations supporting protective regulations.  In only 16 percent of reviews involving meetings did OIRA meet with organizations from across the spectrum of interested groups, while in ...

Sunstein Denounces SBA's 'Deeply Flawed' Study of Regulatory Costs

by James Goodwin | June 03, 2011
In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in mid-April, Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), was asked to comment on a much-disputed $1.75 trillion estimate of the annual cost of federal regulations. The number comes from a report commissioned by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, often referred to as the Crain and Crain report, for its authors. The $1.75 trillion estimate is grossly at odds with ...

Eye on OIRA: President Defied by President's Men; Sunstein and Orszag Violate Obama's Own Directive

by Rena Steinzor | April 07, 2010
The system of checks and balances devised by the Framers of the Constitution 220 years ago was all about the sharing of power. In practice, it makes for a messy flow chart, and lends itself to lots of inside-the-Beltway conversation about who’s in, who’s out, who’s winning and who’s losing. But as messy as the how-a-bill-really-becomes-a-law flow chart is, the structure within the White House itself usually features one constant: When the President says jump, staffers ask how high. Every ...

Eye on OIRA: Sunstein Says Ambitious Efforts to Revamp Regulatory Review Tabled for the Time Being. What Does It Mean? Not Much. Just Ask Oscar the Grouch.

by Rena Steinzor | March 12, 2010
In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institute Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein is quoted by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives saying that his ambitious plans for revamping Executive Order 12,866 – the document that governs much of the process of regulating, and particularly OIRA’s role in it –have been tabled for the time being as he and his staff study the lengthy comments presented by a broad range of industry and public ...

Sunstein Watch: Old Habits Die Hard on the Regulatory Killing Ground; Don't OMB Economists Have Better Things to Do Than Channel Industry Opposition to EPA Science?

by Rena Steinzor | October 19, 2009
Before Cass Sunstein had spent much more than a week as the official director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), he invited us over to the White House to talk about how he wanted to shape his small office of economists and statisticians into a strong force for progressive policy within the White House. Followers of the Center for Progressive Reform know that we put out a report in the run-up to his confirmation that was critical ...

Cass Sunstein Nomination Clears Cloture Vote in Senate

by Ben Somberg | September 09, 2009
Late this afternoon the Senate ended debate, in a 63-35 cloture vote, on the nomination of Cass Sunstein for Administrator of the Office of Information and Reuglatory Affairs (OIRA). Here's a quick look back at what CPR scholars have said about the Sunstein nomination and the role of OIRA in regulatory policy: CPR Member Scholars' Jan 2009 report, Reinvigorating Protection of Health, Safety, and the Environment: The Choices Facing Cass Sunstein Rena Steinzor: Some troubling words at Sunstein's confirmation hearing, ...

'Curiouser and Curiouser!' Cried Alice ... A Tale of Regulatory Policy in the Obama Administration

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
Like Alice's adventure, the development of regulatory oversight in the Obama administration is becoming "curiouser and curiouser." President Obama selected Cass Sunstein to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a curious choice since Sunstein, although one of the country’s most distinguished academics, is in favor of extending the use of cost-benefit analysis, a position so popular with the business community that the Wall Street Journal endorsed his nomination. Sunstein's confirmation hearing was uneventful, probably ...

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Heinzerling | Jun 14, 2018 | Regulatory Policy

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