A Paper Trail Leading to a Fight

By Cindy Skrzycki
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

S usan E. Dudley , President Bush 's nominee to become his new regulatory review chief, has written extensively about federal rulemaking for years, a miles-long paper trail that is providing ammunition for her opponents.

Business supporters say Dudley, director of regulatory studies at George Mason University's Mercatus Center , is experienced, analytical and dispassionate in expressing her belief that the market will correct most problems and that rules should be subject to a tough cost-benefit test. Public interest groups fighting the nomination say those writings disqualify her for the job.

The new job, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House's Office of Management and Budget , is an important one. It makes final decisions on which major federal regulations are approved, which are sent back for more work and which never see the light of day.

With so much at stake, many participants expect the same kind of fight that the previous administrator, John D. Graham, faced five years ago, one that brought him 37 "nay" votes on his confirmation in the Senate.

OMB Watch , a foundation-funded, liberal nonprofit group that monitors federal regulatory policy, will oppose an executive nomination for the first time, said Gary Bass , the group's executive director. "This time, we will come out swinging," he said.

OMB Watch and Public Citizen , the consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader , released a 68-page report last week using Dudley's writings to attack her. It chastised her for ties to corporate donors and for what it called "Dudleynomics," an emphasis on free-market solutions to health and safety issues at the public's expense.

The study said Dudley has suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency leave it up to individual communities to control arsenic in their water; that publicly releasing information on toxics may be more costly than it's worth; and that regulators' "one-size-fits-all" approach to vehicle airbags eliminates consumer choice.

The Mercatus Center called the report "incomplete and biased" against Dudley and the center.

Dudley's backers point to what they call her personal commitment to environmental stewardship, noting that she and her husband, Brian Mannix, the EPA's associate administrator for policy, economics and innovation, drove hybrid cars before hybrids were cool. Her profile on the Mercatus Center Web site says she enjoys hiking, canoeing and fly fishing.

Business lobbyists say the 51-year-old Dudley's experience working at EPA and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs gives her an insider's view of regulation.

"She is very articulate and has a great read on the issues," said William Kovacs , vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Graham, the former regulatory review chief who is now dean of RAND Corp. 's graduate school in Santa Monica, Calif., said Dudley was a "superb choice" because she has hands-on experience at federal agencies, is an academic and has made scholarly contributions to the literature on regulation.

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