President Trump’s voter fraud commission may have violated the law by ignoring federal requirements governing requests for information from states, several experts on the regulatory process told The Hill.
Experts say the failure to submit the request to states through the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) violates a 1980 law known as the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). They also say the failure could be significant, since states could argue it means they are under no obligation to respond.
“If the commission gets heavy-handed with them, it seems to me that the states are within their right to say, ‘No, we don’t have to respond because you didn’t go through [OIRA],’” said Susan Dudley, a former OIRA administrator who is now director of the GW Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University.
After an initial version of this story was published online, the White House in an email argued that the election commission is exempt from the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, which requires federal agencies to take specific steps before making requests for public information. The reason is simple, according to a spokesman: The commission is not an agency.
“The Paperwork Reduction Act only applies to information collections by agencies,” Marc Lotter, spokesman for Vice President Pence, said in an email. “The Commission is an entity that ‘serve[s] solely to advise and assist the President,’ and is not, therefore, an agency subject to PRA.”
Experts interviewed by The Hill said they believed that the commission did fall under the Paperwork Reduction Act, a 1980 law that requires federal agencies to seek public input, including through a comment period, before making a request for information. A 1995 amendment extended OIRA’s authority to include not only requests for information for the government, but also requests for information to the public.
There are some exemptions from the Paperwork Act’s requirements, but Richard Belzer, a former OIRA economist, said in an email to The Hill that he didn’t recall Trump’s executive order including any provision that would exempt the commission from following the requirements.
Belzer said it would not be unprecedented for OIRA to wave through an approval or issue an exemption at the request of the White House, but he argued this would be “legally dubious” in this case.
Full article: Voter fraud commission may have violated law | TheHill