Obama to Name Lawyer Friend To Regulatory Affairs Position

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 8, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama will name Cass R. Sunstein, a close friend and one of the nation's top constitutional lawyers, to a senior-level post in charge of government regulation, a transition official said.

Sunstein, a Harvard University law professor who grew close to Obama during their years at the University of Chicago, will become the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Obama talked on the campaign trail about the need to revamp the nation's regulatory structure, especially in housing and finance, areas in which lapses contributed to the current economic crisis.

In his new position, Sunstein will oversee reform of regulations, seeking to find smarter approaches and better results in health, environment and other domestic areas, a transition source said.

The office Sunstein will head is part of the Office of Management and Budget and is responsible for reviewing draft regulations and overseeing the implementation of government-wide policies aimed at making federal agencies more efficient, according to the mission statement on its Web site.

The job, although not widely known, sits at the center of a key part of the federal government: the rulemaking process by which agencies implement the laws that Congress passes.

Sunstein is a prolific legal scholar who joined Harvard's faculty last year. His most recent book, called "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness," addresses how people can make better choices in their lives.

In an article he wrote for the Huffington Post in March, Sunstein described Obama as a "careful and even-handed analyst of law and policy, unusually attentive to multiple points of view."

"From knowing Obama for many years, I have no doubts about his ability to lead," Sunstein wrote. "He knows a great deal, and he is a quick learner. Even better, he knows what he does not know, and there is no question that he would assemble an accomplished, experienced team of advisers. His brilliant administration of his own campaign provides helpful evidence here."

Sunstein recently married Samantha Power, another Obama adviser, who was forced to apologize to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for calling her a "monster" during the campaign. Power is part of a transition team helping Clinton assume her duties as secretary of state.

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