Obama taps FTC official as new regulatory czar

President Obama on Thursday nominated economist Howard Shelanski to serve as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a little known but influential post that serves as gatekeeper for the stream of rules emitting from federal agencies.

Shelanski, currently director of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Economics, has also been a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center since 2011, according to the White House

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If confirmed by the Senate, Shelanski, a one-time clerk for conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, would succeed Cass Sunstein, who departed from the post in August after a three-year tour. 

With Congress mired in gridlock on many fronts, the Obama administration has increasingly sought to accomplish its policy goals through regulatory action. The shift has added clout to the OIRA administrator role and outside groups from across the political spectrum have awaited Obama’s selection with significant interest.

There are currently more than 100 federal rules, ranging from air quality protections to proposed worker protections, awaiting review at OIRA, which is housed in the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Shelanski has headed the FTC economics bureau since last year. He was the bureau’s deputy director of antitrust from 2009 to 2011. He also served as chief economist of the Federal Communications Commission and as senior economist for the President's Council of Economic Advisers during President Clinton’s second term.

An antitrust expert, Shelanski spent time as Of counsel to the law firm Davis, Polk & Wardwell and had reportedly been seen as a contender to lead the FTC.

Shelanski received a B.A. from Haverford College, and a J.D. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

This story was updated with new information at 6:36 p.m.

Megan Wilson contributed.