Critics say 'transparent' administration anything but open about federal regulations

President Obama has often promised that his administration would be the most "transparent" in history. But two new studies are taking aim at that pledge, with critics saying when it comes to federal regulations, the administration is being anything but open.

Federal agencies are required to report all the regulatory actions they have under consideration in what's known as the Unified Agenda twice a year. In addition, the White House Office of Management and Budget is mandated to provide a cost-benefit analysis of federal regulations to Congress each year.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Action Forum, that has not been happening.

Wayne Crews, CEI's vice president for policy, says, "This is the administration that claims transparency but on the other hand, says it's going to use its pens and its phones and it's gonna work around Congress at every opportunity."

Often, regulations are the easiest and most effective way to do that. According to Crews, for every law that Congress passes, federal agencies will write an average of 51 federal regulations.

The impact can be significant. Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at AAF, says in fiscal year 2012, "the administration admitted roughly $25 billion in regulatory burdens." Those costs impact everything from food to gas.

Yet, when the reports detailing federal regulations and their price tags aren't released, stakeholders in the process have limited opportunities to raise concerns.

Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can overrule regulations -- but only if they are appropriately reported as rules that qualify for congressional vetting. Critics say that often does not happen.

OMB spokesman Frank Benenati says, "The Administration looks forward to releasing our final 2013 report on costs and benefits of Federal regulations in the coming weeks, as well as our draft 2014 report."

He adds, "The 2014 report will show Administration regulations in FY 2013 resulted in net benefits of at least $25 billion for the American taxpayer."

Both Crews and Batkins dispute that figure. Crews notes, "In OMB’s Draft 2013 Report, at a time when agencies issued 3,708 rules, OMB reviewed only a few hundred, and only presented cost-benefits for only 14."