Regulatory czar leaving White House to return to Harvard Law School

Cass Sunstein, a top adviser to President Obama who functions as a gatekeeper on federal regulations, is leaving the White House to return to Harvard Law School.

Obama heralded Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, "for his friendship and for his years of exceptional service."

"For the last three and a half years, Cass Sunstein has helped drive a series of historic accomplishments on behalf of the American people," Obama said in a statement. "From putting in place lifesaving protections for America’s families, to eliminating tens of millions of hours of paperwork burdens for our nation’s citizens and businesses, Cass has shown that it is possible to support economic growth without sacrificing health, safety, and the environment."

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Obama and Sunstein originally met at the University of Chicago law school, where they both taught constitutional law. Sunstein moved to Harvard after meeting his future wife — Samantha Power, the National Security Council’s senior director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, and herself part of Harvard's faculty — while campaigning for Obama in Iowa.

A specialist in administrative law and regulatory policy, Sunstein worked as a "regulatory czar" in the White House, looking to streamline government policies. 

Sunstein drew a fair amount of controversy from both the left and the right. His departure will bring a sigh of relief to some environmental and public health advocates, who alleged Sunstein was too willing to bend an ear to oil companies and other industries seeking to weaken regulations. And other liberals objected to his libertarian-leaning behavioral economics theories.

But Sunstein also drew fire from some conservatives like Glenn Beck, who, in April of 2010, called the professor "the most dangerous man in America" and seized on comments about gun control he made in his academic writing.

Sunstein has long been rumored as a potential choice of Obama for a Supreme Court vacancy, if one were to open.