Cass Sunstein, the Obama administration’s regulatory czar, will leave the post later this month to return to Harvard Law School, the White House said Friday.
Mr. Sunstein, whose wonky title is administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, is the president’s top regulatory enforcer. He first first met President Obama when both were teachers at the University of Chicago Law School.
Mr. Sunstein is a well-known academic and expert on “behavioral economics” — which stresses how people actually behave rather than theoretical models to promote financial and environmental outcomes.
When he was nominated to head OIRA, liberal legal scholars and environmentalists objected because they believed Mr. Sunstein would be too supportive of methods the Bush administration used to weaken and defeat certain health, safety and environmental regulations.
The firestorm died down once his nomination was approved, but in sheer numbers Mr. Sunstein says fewer final regs have been issued during his tenure than during the same period under President Bush. Conservatives maintain Mr. Obama has imposed too much regulation, which has hurt economic growth; Mr. Sunstein attributes the sense of over-regulation to the bad economy.
Reacting to Mr. Sunstein’s plans to leave the White House, Mr. Obama praised his efforts to both protect important regulations and eliminate others that were overly burdensome.
“Cass has shown that it is possible to support economic growth without sacrificing health, safety and the environment,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “Cass has shepherded our review of existing rules to get rid of those that cost too much or no longer make sense, an effort that is already on track to save billions of dollars. With these reforms and his tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis, his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come.”
“I can’t thank him enough for his friendship and for his years of exceptional service,” he added.
At Harvard, Mr. Sunstein with serve as the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy.