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Trump Taps Former Corporate Lawyer to Lead Regulatory Rollbacks

Paul Ray has been the acting head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for six months. 

President Trump announced his intent on Tuesday to nominate Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs acting administrator Paul Ray to permanently fill the position, in which he will spearhead the administration's deregulatory efforts. 

“Paul is a dedicated public servant with a strong background in regulatory law and policy,” tweeted acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought on Wednesday. “I look forward to working with him on the President’s regulatory relief agenda which is helping millions of Americans.” OIRA is a division of the Office of Management and Budget that oversees regulations.

Ray took over as OIRA acting administrator in March when Neomi Rao replaced Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Ray had limited experience with regulatory affairs, having served as a corporate attorney for Sidley Austin LLP and as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit and for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. 

“In public remarks [Ray] has embraced long-standing and bipartisan principles for how the government should analyze proposed regulations,” said Susan Dudley, director of The George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center. “[This] is encouraging and makes him a solid candidate for the position.”

Other observers expressed concerns about the nomination. “I think Mr. Ray’s limited experience is a concern given that OIRA will be reviewing many of the most consequential rollbacks of regulatory protections slated to be finalized over the next six months to a year,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at the nonprofit Public Citizen. “But even more concerning is Mr. Ray’s previous work on behalf of corporate clients challenging regulations issued by the last administration and now being repealed by this administration with OIRA’s involvement.” 

Ray’s clients included major oil, energy and transportation companies, according to a list from ProPublica. Ray told Bloomberg News in April that there are a “few matters” he is recused from due to previous business interests. Narang said he hopes the public will learn more about potential conflicts of interest during the confirmation process.

Deregulation has been one of the Trump administration's signature issues. Shortly after the inauguration in January 2017, the president signed Executive Order 13771, which required agencies to cut two regulations for every new one implemented. In October 2018, the administration touted savings of $23 billion during fiscal year 2018 due to 176 actions that rolled back “burdensome and unnecessary regulation.” 

Ray told Bloomberg: “What I want to bring to the table is this robust confidence in the American people that President Trump very much has and that motivates the deregulatory agenda.”