By James Goodwin, Center for Progressive Reform
Today, 18 CPR Member Scholars and staff sent a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressing their support for her recently introduced bill, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, in particular its provisions to reform the regulatory system so that it works for all Americans. These provisions are just one component of the bill’s comprehensive effort aimed at restoring the principles of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” to our policymaking institutions by ridding them of excessive corporate influence and by eliminating unnecessary barriers that defeat meaningful public participation in our governing processes.
As CPR has documented for more than 15 years, our regulatory system has become grossly unbalanced, with its procedures and outcomes increasingly tilted to favor the protection of corporate profits at the expense of public health, safety, financial security, and environmental integrity. The Regulatory Reform Title of Warren’s bill would institute vital changes to the regulatory system aimed at correcting these imbalances.
As the letter explains, several of the bill’s provisions would be effective in addressing the problem of corporate dominance of the rulemaking process. For example, Sections 303 and 306 would seek to end industry’s use of the centralized review process at the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) as a conduit for secretly watering down or blocking rules it finds too inconvenient. Among other things, these provisions would make this process more transparent and end OIRA’s practice of presiding over “lobbying” meetings while conducting reviews.
But, as the bill rightly notes, ending the scourge of corporate dominance is not sufficient to rebuilding the regulatory system. Rather, it is also necessary that we ensure that ordinary Americans are able to contribute and participate meaningfully in regulatory development and implementation, as their lived experience with the threats that regulations are meant to avert will enhance the quality and effectiveness of regulatory design and decision-making.
Accordingly, the CPR letter highlights several of the provisions in the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act that would promote public participation. These include Section 309 of the bill, which would create an innovative new agency called the Office of Public Advocacy that would be charged with assisting individuals who want to participate in the rulemaking process. And Section 310 would broaden the use of “private attorneys general” to all public interest laws, empowering ordinary Americans to contribute to their effective enforcement.
While these reforms are important in their own right, what makes Warren’s bill especially valuable at this juncture in American history is the broader message it sends – namely, that good government plays an essential role in our society, and our system of regulatory safeguards is a legitimate and necessary part of this role. Going forward, the bill holds the promise of not only strengthening our regulatory system but also of changing for the better how Americans think of their relationship with their government.