WASHINGTON (AP) – President-elect Barack Obama has tapped legal scholar Cass Sunstein as his administration’s regulatory czar, a Democratic source said Friday.

Obama hired the Harvard law professor to run the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the administration’s central approver of rules that has say over environmental policy, workplace safety issues and federal health care policies. All major agencies’ rules will pass across Sunstein’s desk, giving him great influence in the new administration.

Sunstein’s office would be the main place Obama’s new administration would look to reverse executive orders issued by President George W. Bush, who leaves office Tuesday. Obama aides and advisers have their eyes on Bush’s policies on stem cell research and reproductive rights, but advisers have combed Bush’s record and found more than 200 rules they would like to see reversed.

Independent and advocacy groups have been lobbying Obama aides aggressively to move quickly on the policies, perhaps as early as his first full day in office, Jan. 21.

Sunstein could be the face of that effort. He’s a much-quoted expert on regulation and has testified about Supreme Court nominees; Harvard touted him as the most cited law professor in the country when officials hired him last year.

Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan – who is set to become Obama’s solicitor general – called him the “pre-eminent legal scholar of our time” and an “individual superstar” in her February 2008 announcement that he would join the faculty. Aside from a short stint at the Justice Department, he has never worked in government.

Sunstein previously taught at the University of Chicago, where Obama also taught law part time.

He is married to Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign policy adviser who was forced to resign from the campaign when she called Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was then an Obama rival, “a monster.” Power has since rejoined Obama’s circle, helping his transition team assess the State Department that Clinton would lead as secretary.

Sunstein earned two degrees from Harvard and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He also advised constitution writers in Poland, South Africa and Russia.

AP-ES-01-16-09 1549EST

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