Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Grant supports Yackee’s work on inequality in the political process

Grant supports Yackee’s work on inequality in the political process

La Follette School Professor Susan Yackee and Harvard University’s Daniel Carpenter received a $142,388 grant from the Russell Sage Foundation to support their project on inequality in the political process and the resulting public policies – specifically, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010.

Yackee, who served as the La Follette School’s director from 2013 to 2016, is widely considered one of the most influential scholars of rulemaking in the United States. Her work focuses on administrative and agency policymaking – a critical but understudied aspect of the U.S. political process.

“While Congress routinely passes statutes that contain legally binding dictates, the implementation of those statutes almost always requires federal agencies, staffed by civil servants, to devise legally binding standards and procedures (i.e. rules) that make the legislation practically effective,” Yackee and Carpenter wrote in their proposal. “This kind of agency policymaking is pervasive and unavoidable.”

They also noted that the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, which guides agency policymaking, requires federal agencies, including those charged with implementing Dodd-Frank, to solicit public comments on their draft policy proposals and to consider any comments before issuing the agency’s legally binding Final Rule.

Agency officials may or may not make changes to the proposed rule as a result of the public comments; however, given the potential impact of agency-issued regulations, those individuals, companies, and organizations most affected have a clear interest in attempting to influence regulatory policy content via lobbying during agency rulemaking.

Yackee and Carpenter will focus on recent financial reforms in the Obama Administration as well as the early years of the Trump Administration. They will gather and analyze public comments, qualitative and quantitative measures of agency rule change, and asset price changes for commenting financial institutions.

“We seek to understand how and why federal rules reflect or do not reflect the wishes of different public commenters—some who are wealthy and privileged, such as banks, financial firms, and bank-holding companies and some who are less wealthy citizens and less privileged public interest groups,” Yackee and Carpenter wrote.

The Russell Sage Foundation grant will fund several aspects of their project – Inequality, Institutions, and the Making of Financial Policy: A Collaborative Project on Rulemaking in the Aftermath of Dodd-Frank. Yackee and Carpenter plan to disseminate their research and findings via traditional and social media, including journal articles, blog posts, and policy papers.