July 12, 2011

Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Prevent “Agency Capture”

Washington, DC – Following reports last year of oil industry representatives exerting undue influence over the Minerals Management Service, resulting in a failure of oversight that contributed to the Gulf oil spill disaster, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has introduced legislation to help prevent powerful special interests from “capturing” and controlling federal agencies that regulate their activities. Whitehouse’s two bills, the Regulatory Information Reporting Act and the Regulatory Capture Prevention Act, would provide for continuous and ongoing investigation of agency capture, and increase reporting requirements for agencies charged with enforcing our nation’s laws.

“Too often, powerful industries seek to ‘capture’ regulatory agencies to weaken rulemaking and enforcement practices in order to blunt the effect of laws passed to protect the public interest. Their encroachment on these public agencies is secretive and silent,” said Whitehouse. “These bills would provide a spotlight of public awareness on these industry efforts, to protect the interests of ordinary American citizens.”

The Regulatory Capture Prevention Act would create an office within the Office of Management and Budget with the authority to investigate and report regulatory capture. The office would ensure that abuses are not overlooked, and sound the alarm if a regulatory agency were coopted or overwhelmed by a more sophisticated and better-resourced regulated entity.

The Regulatory Information Reporting Act would shed additional sunlight on regulatory agencies by requiring them to report to a public website the following: first, the name and affiliation of each party that comments on an agency regulation; second, whether that party affected the regulatory process; and finally, whether that party is an economic, non-economic, or citizen interest. By centralizing this information for public and congressional scrutiny, the bill would create a simple metric for identifying regulatory capture in agency rulemaking.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921