I Am OMB and I Write the Rules

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Worried enviros say the Bush administration is about ready to announce its pick to head the Office of Management and Budget's powerful regulatory office and the front-runner is Susan Dudley , director of the regulatory studies program at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

Dudley would head the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which approves all environmental, health and safety and other government regulations.

Dudley, who has worked at the OMB and at the Environmental Protection Agency, would succeed John D. Graham , the cost-benefit champion who left in October. Graham also served as an adviser to Mercatus, the staunchly anti-regulatory center funded largely by Koch Industries Inc., the oil and gas company and mega-GOP contributor. Charles G. Koch and another top Koch official serve on the nine-member Mercatus board of directors.

Dudley would seem to be the obvious successor to continue the administration's anti-regulatory policies. After all, in the early days of President Bush's first term, when the OMB asked for public input on which regulations should be revised or killed, Mercatus submitted 44 of the 71 proposals the OMB received. And the OMB approved 15 of them, the National Journal reported at the time.

These recommendations critiqued onerous regulations such as a proposed Interior Department rule prohibiting snowmobiles in Rocky Mountain National Park, a Transportation Department rule limiting truckers' hours behind the wheel, and that silly EPA rule limiting the amount of arsenic in drinking water. (Hey! You don't want it? Don't drink it.)

The Ralph Nader -founded Public Citizen uncharitably calls Mercatus a "wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch industries and other corporate interests." Koch (pronounced "coke") has given many millions to Mercatus, but other companies also have contributed a bit as well.

Over the years, those contributors have included Fannie Mae, Microsoft, Pfizer and Enron, which have donated about $50,000, plus $10,000 from the late Kenneth L. Lay and his wife's foundation.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Koch money controls or strongly influences a number of leading conservative institutions, including the Cato Institute (co-founded by Charles Koch), the Tax Foundation, the Institute for Justice, the Federalist Society, and Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded in 1984 by Charles and David H. Koch and Koch executive Richard Fink .

Some enviros are already pining for the days of John Graham, whose nomination they bitterly opposed. Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch called Dudley "a true anti-regulatory zealot" who "makes John Graham look like Ralph Nader."

Well, that's what elections are all about.

Rep. Sherwood Hit by a Truck Sale

When last we left Loop Favorite Rep. Don Sherwood (R-Pa.) in November, he was flying about on Air Force One and had just settled that $5.5 million lawsuit filed by his mistress, Cynthia Ore , 29, who'd accused him of repeatedly beating her during their five-year affair and had even called the cops one night and alleged he had choked her.

So it seemed like smooth sailing for him for reelection in the heavily Republican and very forgiving electorate in his northeastern Pennsylvania congressional district. But this week, the watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said $10,000 from a $750,000 congressional earmark he got for a conservation project in the district was used to buy a truck from Sherwood's Chevrolet dealership.

CREW wants him to refund the money. Sherwood says he knew nothing about it and accused CREW of trying to win the election for his Democratic opponent. The county conservation district official involved in the sale said there were only two dealerships offering what they wanted, and Sherwood Chevrolet had a better price than Gateway Ford.

Remember that next time you're out shopping for a truck.

No Spokesman Left Behind

Kevin Sullivan , former chief spokesman at NBC Universal and more recently assistant secretary for communications and outreach at the Department of Education, has been tapped to be White House director of communications.

Sullivan also worked for NBC Sports and in public relations for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks for 18 years. He succeeds Nicolle Wallace , who moved to New York.

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