Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Outside Communications And OIRA Review Of Agency Regulations

A paper I wrote with Jen Deets and Forrest Maltzman, two GW colleagues, was recently published in a special issue of the
Administrative Law Review. (Click here to access the full paper.)

The issue takes stock of the process by the White House reviews significant regulatory actions being proposed by agencies ranging from the Department of Transportation to the Environmental Protection Agency to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The current administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (the White House body in charge of clearing agency regulations) contributed an essay to the issue, as did past OIRA administrators who served under presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.

As for us three academics, we focused on the role that communications between OIRA personnel and individuals and organizations from outside of the White House play in the shaping of the regulatory review process and the outcomes associated with this all-important process.
Here is a brief summary of what we did and what we found...

Although the review of agency regulations by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has been a fundamental aspect of the rulemaking process for three decades, there is little empirical evidence regarding the operation and effects of regulatory review. In this research, we examine a longstanding expectation regarding the involvement of outside parties in OIRA review, namely, that participation on the part of regulated entities is tied to reviews that take particularly long to complete and that are especially likely to result in changes to agency rules. Taking advantage of information about outside communications that OIRA discloses via the Internet, we find that although participation was associated with lengthy review times and rule revisions during the period between 2002 and 2006, these delays and amendments were not specifically linked with the involvement of business firms and industry organizations. These results imply that outside communications do not, as a general matter, serve as an institutionalized forum for regulated entities to slow OIRA reviews and alter the content of agency regulations.

OIRA review in practice provides the White House with opportunities to consider with particular care those rules that have proven especially difficult to handle via the ordinary regulatory process. These are regulations where stakeholder involvement has been especially widespread and disagreements between participants have been more pronounced than usual. In such pluralistic stakeholder environments, OIRA review serves as a tool for the White House to evaluate and shape executive branch actions in a more fundamental way than when rulemakings have hewed closely to textbook modes of regulation. In the end, the notion of heightened White House attention to issues and disputes that have frayed bureaucratic routines differs significantly from the idea of business domination as an explanation for the role that outside communications, as a general matter, play in the process and outcomes of OIRA regulatory review.

Enjoy the paper, which relegates the details of the statistical analysis to the appendix



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