08.31.2009 0

Sunstein: Plunging the Agricultural Industry into a Litigation Abyss

  • On: 09/01/2009 09:24:49
  • In: Appointments
  • By Nathan Paul Mehrens

    One of the most effective ways a President influences public policy and law in a lasting manner is through regulatory actions taken by the federal government. It’s not an area that typically garners substantial media attention because regulatory work is generally a highly technical matter performed by policy wonks largely unknown to the public.

    Yet, despite their general obscurity, federal regulations have a substantial impact on virtually every facet of society. And the personnel who oversee the regulatory process have far greater influence than most would imagine.

    Chief among the personnel who oversee the regulatory process is the administrator of an unheralded office within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The administrator is also known as the “Regulatory Czar.” Earlier this year the President nominated Cass Sunstein to run this office. Sunstein’s nomination is now pending before the full Senate. A vote on his nomination is expected next week.

    Unless you work on regulatory matters involving the federal, government you are probably not aware that OIRA exists. However, the office has tremendous influence on the number and scope of regulations that come out of the various federal agencies. The office acts as the gatekeeper vetting both final regulations that become law as well as proposed regulations.

    Given the importance of this office to the regulatory process, the views of its administrator are highly important. Mr. Sunstein in his Senate hearing gave verbal deference to the rule of law saying that his personal views are not relevant because he would “follow the law.”

    This is all well and fine as long as the person administering the office is in a situation where there is mandatory legal authority he is required to obey. Unfortunately, that is not often the case, because many appointees — like Sunstein — are in positions where they are actually creating law through the regulations they promulgate.

    This is where personal views come into play.

    Some of Mr. Sunstein’s views are troubling to say the least. He is on record supporting rights for animals including giving standing to private persons to sue on behalf of animals under existing laws. He has also stated that he believes there should be more regulation in the area of animal rights.

    This is slippery slope to say the least. What will happen if he is presented with a regulatory situation where he is free to “follow the law” as well as advance his own personal views at the same time? And what if he uses the power of this office to influence the law he then eagerly follows?

    In my own past work experience, I’ve had substantial firsthand experience with OIRA. The office can be a bear to deal with since it has life and death power over regulatory actions. And I have seen how the personal views of OIRA staff can become dangerously problematic, as the regulators attempt to push the law in one way or another because they are in a position to affect (or even craft) law, not just follow it.

    Given Sunstein’s troubling statements and advocacy, he should not be confirmed to run OIRA. The Senate should vote down his nomination.

    And in so doing, it should send a clear message to the President that a nominee with radically leftwing views concerning issues like animal rights should not be in a position where he has the opportunity to craft laws, rules, and regulations that could plunge the livestock industry into a litigation abyss from which it may never emerge.

    Nathan Paul Mehrens is Counsel at Americans for Limited Government and previously served in the U.S. Department of Labor under President George W. Bush.


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