Think Tank Wades Into Regulatory Policy

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By Cheryl Bolen

Nov. 2 — The Center for American Progress, a think tank with deep ties to both former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has posted its first policy paper on the issue of regulatory overhaul.

“It’s a brand-new space for us,” Andy Green, managing director of economic policy at CAP, told Bloomberg BNA. “We’ll be doing more—this is the first of our forays into it.”

Up until now, debate over regulatory policy has largely been relegated to academics and a handful of powerful business interests, who have long complained there are too many regulations that are too costly.

Sustained interest in regulatory overhaul by the influential CAP could help tilt the debate in favor of a more liberal view of regulation, and lend firepower to smaller public interest organizations such as Public Citizen and the Center for Progressive Reform.

Campaign Ties

The policy paper, which was posted to the CAP website on Nov. 1, mirrors the arguments that have been made by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that industry and business have too much influence over the regulatory process.

The paper’s author is Ganesh Sitaraman, a senior fellow at CAP and associate professor of law at Vanderbilt University Law School, who previously worked as policy director for Warren’s campaign and then as senior counsel in Warren’s Senate office.

CAP scholars will be publishing more ideas and analysis on regulatory issues going forward, because it’s an important topic—as the last four years of the Obama administration have shown, Green said.

“In an era of gridlock here in Washington ... it really falls to the regulatory state to use their established, statutory authorities, via well-established notice and comment rulemakings, to move the ball forward,” Green said.

CAP has longstanding ties to both Clintons. John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, is a founder and former president of CAP and now sits on its board of directors. Podesta previously served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

Neera Tanden, the current president of CAP, is a co-chairman of the Clinton-Kaine transition project. Tanden previously was policy director in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Policy Position

The paper posted by CAP finds that the regulatory process is, in practice, skewed in favor of industry interests and that regulators are often delayed in meeting their statutory obligations.

“Improving the regulatory process will require strategies to reduce delays and inaction and to counteract what is termed regulatory capture—when regulation is skewed toward regulated industry to the detriment of the public interest,” Sitaraman wrote.

Warren delivered a speech to a forum on regulatory capture March 3 hosted by the Administrative Conference of the U.S., outlining many of the same concerns and arguments.

Staking Out Sides

This view of regulation, however, runs counter to that expressed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business advocates, who have long argued that complying with federal regulations is difficult and costly.

The Chamber argued in a Sept. 8 blog post that the regulatory process is broken and out of balance against businesses.

Without a working system of checks and balances, rules are unfair, impractical, costly to businesses of all sizes and fail to protect everyone’s rights, the Chamber said.

“In short, the federal regulatory process must be reformed to ensure that agencies implement the will of Congress and that the courts uphold the constitutional principle of separation of powers, so our country can get back to work without the undue, unchecked burden of overregulation,” the Chamber blog post said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com

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