Report accuses GW’s Regulatory Studies Center of political bias

A watchdog organization released a report Monday criticizing one of the University’s research centers for its alleged right-wing bias.

The report, released by Public Citizen, a progressive consumer rights advocacy group, accused the GW Regulatory Studies Center, housed in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, of working to promote an anti-regulatory political agenda. Taylor Lincoln, the report’s author, analyzed the RSC’s research findings, the backgrounds of the center’s researchers and the political affiliations of several of the center’s major donors to arrive at his conclusion.

“The RSC is the Fox News of the regulatory policy world, except it still clings to the fiction that it is fair and balanced,” Lincoln, the research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said in a release.

Lincoln’s report condemns the RSC for its lack of disclosure about its donors, which Lincoln claims include anti-regulatory trade associations and nonprofits funded by conservative billionaires. “Key funders” of the center include the Charles Koch Foundation, a libertarian-leaning nonprofit, and the ExxonMobil Foundation, both of which have donated more than $1 million to the center, the report states.

The report also denounces the conservative bias of RSC researchers, noting that 96 percent of public comments submitted to federal agencies by RSC members between 2013 and 2018 recommended less stringent regulations. In the report, Lincoln singles out RSC Director Susan Dudley, a distinguished professor of practice in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, for the anti-regulation stances she adopted during her tenure in President George W. Bush’s administration from 2007 to 2009.

Lincoln’s report urges officials to disclose donors to the RSC and to ensure that donor gifts do not improperly influence the RSC’s research by adopting a “robust” policy on institutional conflicts of interest. Administrators should take these steps to ensure the RSC “is not merely serving as a cog in an industry-backed campaign to attack regulation” or shut down the center, the report states.

University spokesman Jason Shevrin told Washingtonian that the RSC “receives support for its activities from governments, foundations, companies, and individuals” but “does not accept funding that is conditioned on hiring, or retaining, particular individuals, nor that influences the content or conclusions of its work.”

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