Neomi Rao, the Scholar Who Will Help Lead Trump’s Regulatory Overhaul

When George Mason University changed the name of its law school last year to honor Antonin Scalia, the late conservative Supreme Court justice, the tribute rankled many liberal faculty members and students. That the naming was tied to a multimillion-dollar donation from the conservative Charles Koch Foundation only heightened concerns.

One outspoken advocate for the name change was Neomi Rao, an associate law professor who had come to know Mr. Scalia while serving as a clerk for Clarence Thomas, another conservative member of the court. Ms. Rao, a Republican, publicly celebrated the legacy of Mr. Scalia and praised the Koch donation as “game changing” for the law school.

But quietly, Ms. Rao also worked to win over liberal critics.

In a public relations coup, she helped secure an endorsement for the name change from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Supreme Court’s most liberal justices and a longtime friend of Mr. Scalia. Justice Ginsburg described the school’s renaming as “altogether fitting.”

Ms. Rao’s ability to work both sides of the ideological divide, emblematic of her career in academia and government, is about to be tested anew. On Monday, the Senate is expected to approve Ms. Rao’s nomination to lead an obscure but powerful White House agency called the Office of Infomation and Regulatory Affairs — placing her at the heart of President Trump’s politically contentious agenda to overhaul government rules and regulations.

The office, created during the Carter administration, approves government data collections and determines whether agencies have sufficiently addressed problems during rule-making. In the end, the administrator accepts regulations or sends them back to be reworked, a decision that can expedite rules or effectively neutralize them by imposing extensive delays.

Ms. Rao, 44, who has served in all three branches of the federal government, brings to the position knowledge of Washington, a lengthy Republican contacts list and scholarly credentials from the ideologically charged field of regulatory study.

She is the founder of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason, which is affiliated with the law school and has been a beneficiary of the donation from the Charles Koch Foundation. Ms. Rao started the center two years ago at a time of scholarly intrigue about the regulatory process and the authority of federal agencies to set and enforce rules, a section of the law that rose to prominence during the New Deal era.

Read more of this The New York Times article by Steve Eder by clicking here.

Photo: Homeland Security Governmental Affairs Committee