Democrats Probe Regulatory Reform Conflicts

AUGUST 9, 2017

Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), John Conyers, Jr., (D-MI), Gerry Connelly (D-VA) and David Cicilline (D-RI) have sent a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Neomi Rao, asking the Trump administration to release the names of all regulatory reform team members in the Executive branch, along with any documents relating to their potential conflicts of interest.

“These Task Forces must have an effective and transparent guard against conflicts of interest, especially those in which industry lobbyists seek to overturn environmental and health protections for financial gain,” the Democrat lawmakers said in their letter.

Under President Trump’s Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” each federal agency was instructed to create a task force to identify regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification if they inhibit job growth, are outdated or unnecessary, or impose costs that exceed benefits.

The four Congressmen, who are the ranking Democrats on the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Committee on the Judiciary; Subcommittee on Government Operations; and Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, are concerned that many of these task forces’ members have conflicts of interest or previously have worked for a private sector company that seeks to gain financially from regulatory reform efforts.

Their letter to the OMB and OIRA heads follows investigative reports by several news organizations that there are 85 known current and former task force team members, and 34 of these individuals may have potential conflicts. At least four task force members were registered to lobby the agencies they now work for as employees.
 
Further, the Members of Congress assert in their letter that withholding the names and titles of individuals on the Task Force(s) may violate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

It has been a consistent practice of presidents from both parties to scrutinize federal regulations when they come into office; however, President Trump’s regulatory reform efforts go further with one of his directives seeking to eliminate two regulations for each new one promulgated.

The letter to the OMB and OIRA heads asks for a response by August 25. OIRA is the office within OMB that conducts interagency reviews of every federal regulation issued by Executive branch agencies.