By Cynthia Williams
This article appeared in the September/October 2014 edition of Public Citizen News.
Regulatory policy advocate Amit Narang grew up in Baltimore, studied political theory and French at the University of Pennsylvania and lived in Paris for several years. He has taught English to French professionals and Law School Admissions Test classes to prospective law school applicants. The self-described political junkie had kept an eye on Public Citizen while working in research after graduating from the American University Washington College of Law and was thrilled to join the team in 2011.
These days, the consummate Francophile in all things art, cuisine and cinema lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, whom he met in Paris. He fits in as many good novels as he can when not running after their 2-year-old son.
- From 2009 to 2010, you were articles editor of the Administrative Law Review. How has that experience influenced the work you do at Public Citizen?
NARANG: As a policy advocate, I am directly engaging with many of the issues discussed in largely theoretical fashion in the Administrative Law Review. Expertise and familiarity with administrative law – a fancy term for how government agencies operate within our legal framework – is essential to this work, but it’s not enough to succeed. To be effective, a policy advocate needs to have a broader set of skills and ability to communicate effectively with many different audiences and stakeholders. Most importantly, policy advocates have to have a keen strategic and tactical sense.
- What’s your primary regulatory policy focus?
NARANG: My work is primarily for the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, which Public Citizen co-chairs. The coalition is committed to ensuring that our government is working to protect the public by establishing strong and effective regulatory standards in a variety of areas ranging from the environment to workplace safety, and from consumer product safety to Wall Street reform.
- Are there any issues that resurface often in regulations policy?
NARANG: One constant theme in my area of work is the claim that regulations, including health and safety regulations, kill jobs. This is not at all true if you look at the empirical evidence, but it’s a talking point that conservatives in Congress and pro-industry advocates have repeated ad nauseam for years — even decades — because, in the words of the comedian John Oliver, it feels like it’s true. This work is a never-ending battle to make sure that policymakers in Washington, D.C., see the reality and not the industry-funded rhetoric.
- What projects are you currently working on?
NARANG: My recent work on the introduction of a new bill, the Hide No Harm Act, has been some of the most exciting work I’ve done to date at Public Citizen. This bill would require corporate executives to disclose to federal authorities and the public product safety defects and workplace safety hazards that could kill or seriously injure consumers or employees — or face jail time. In the wake of not only the recent GM scandal, but many others, it’s past time to change the flawed corporate culture that leads to these crimes and punish corporate criminals the way any other criminal would be punished. I was thrilled to work with colleagues in crafting the Hide No Harm Act as a solution and am working hard to make sure it becomes law.
- What should people know about your job?
NARANG: Like many of my colleagues at Public Citizen, my job requires me to wear many different hats, often on a daily basis. On any particular day, I may be doing legislative analysis of a new bill, reading an academic article, meeting with congressional staffers in the field or talking to the press. Juggling these different tasks is one of the more challenging parts of the job but also is one of the main reasons I stay interested in this work.
Interview by Cynthia Williams