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Penn Law students highlight bipartisan concern over regulatory capture

July 05, 2016

It is not every day that Democrats and Republicans join together on the subject of government regulation. But if a series of essays recently published by the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s RegBlog.org is any indication, there is mounting bipartisan support for improving the integrity of the regulatory process.

During the last month, RegBlog, a daily online publication produced by Penn Law students, has been publishing an extensive series of essays entitled, “Rooting Out Regulatory Capture.” This 16-part series features commentary by leading scholars and some of the nation’s foremost public leaders, including U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

RegBlog’s series focuses on the problem of “regulatory capture” — that is, the process by which special interests co-opt the regulatory bodies that are tasked with regulating them, leading to a system that favors special interests over the advancement of legislative goals and the broader public.

“Regulatory capture is a big deal,” writes Senator Warren in her RegBlog essay, describing it as a means by which “powerful corporations rig the system to work for themselves — and the rest of America pays the price.” She calls for a series of reforms to improve transparency in the regulatory process and to help “level the playing field between public and private interests.”

Combating capture is likewise an issue with which Senator Lee is deeply concerned. “Strengthening Congress so that policymaking is more transparent and accountable to the public is not a partisan project,” he argues. “It is about putting the federal government back to work for the American people.”

“Making government work well is one area in which we all ought to have common cause,” notes Senator Whitehouse.

The Senators might not always agree on many other policy ideas, but RegBlog’s series makes plain that leveling the regulatory playing field is an idea that those on both sides of the political aisle can support.

The series also includes essays by Jason Furman, Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors; Susan Dudley, the former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President George W. Bush; and Jed Rakoff, a federal District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

RegBlog has assembled major ideas from some of the nation’s most thoughtful public servants, creating a compendium on regulatory capture that will inform reform efforts for years to come,” notes Cary Coglianese, the Edward B. Shils Professor of Law at Penn Law, who serves as the Director of the Penn Program on Regulation, which sponsors RegBlog. Coglianese also contributed an essay of his own to the series.

The series has been months in the making. “This started as an idea developed by the previous editorial board’s members, and we are thrilled to have been able to work with them to execute on that idea and bring it to fruition,” explains Kim Kirschenbaum L’17, a third-year student at Penn Law and RegBlog’s current Editor-in-Chief, who worked to put the series together. 

“We also benefited greatly from the expert staff at the Administrative Conference of the United States, without whose assistance this series would not have been possible,” Kirschenbaum added. Some of the essays originated as remarks delivered at a spring forum convened by the Administrative Conference, a federal agency aimed at making improvements to administrative law and the regulatory process.

RegBlog is a leading, nonpartisan daily publication devoted to covering regulatory issues. Founded five years ago by Professor Coglianese, it consistently reaches a broad audience of professionals around the world, in addition to numerous offices in all three branches of government in Washington, D.C.

“Not only is RegBlog a great resource for lawyers, business professionals, and government leaders,” notes Coglianese, “but it also serves as an outstanding tool for our students to hone their writing skills, at the same time they are learning more about the fascinating and vital world of regulation.”

To access all of the essays in RegBlog’s series on regulatory capture as well as catch up on the latest regulatory news and commentary, visit the RegBlog website at www.regblog.org, where visitors can also sign up for its weekly newsletter.