Via Matt, we learn that Harvard University law professor and Barack Obama friend Cass Sunstein will be heading up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a part of the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews and analyzes all federal regulations and has a role in information technology policy. As Matt observes, this is a little low on the totem pole for Sunstein, who made his name at the University of Chicago and is generally mentioned as a possible Supreme Court justice, not a regulatory bureaucrat. What have we learned? The Obama administration intends to make smart regulation a priority, since it's hard to imagine Sunstein signing on unless he thought he would have a large role. Sunstein's specialty is the legal applications of behavioral economics; for what that entails, see Noam Scheiber here or Sunstein's book with behavioral economist Richard Thaler here.
If you're looking for a New Deal reference (everything Obama does is required to remind you of the New Deal), recall the instructive stories of Thomas Corcoran and Benjamin Cohen, two brilliant young lawyers brought in to FDR's brains trust to, well, create the SEC and half-a-dozen other regulatory regimes from scratch. Admittedly Sunstein is more experienced than either Cohen or Corcoran was at the time, and he probably won't have to create new regulatory regimes -- unless Obama merges the SEC with Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- but he will hopefully have a free hand to broadly recast the government's approach to rulemaking.
Bonus Sunstein Fact: He's married to foreign policy expert Samantha Power, whose role in an Obama administration remains unclear.
-- Tim Fernholz