During the last twenty years, numerous proposals for enhancing the quality of federal administrative agency decisionmaking have been offered, but few actually were implemented. One controversial approach, with which fourteen agencies experimented, has been the reimbursement of non-regulated individuals and organizations for the costs of their involvement in administrative proceedings. A principal purpose of that public funding was to improve agency decisionmaking by rectifying the participatory imbalance between regulated parties and non-commercial interests involved in administrative initiatives; however, little of the government- supported citizen activity that occurred has been analyzed. Participant compensation effectively has been discontinued and most agency proceedings in which there was reimbursed public involvement have been completed. But before the memories of persons familiar with funded activity fade and additional sources of information are lost, it is appropriate to evaluate some compensated participation to ascertain its quality and how the involvement affected government decisional processes. One way of accomplishing this is to examine reimbursed citizen activity in initiatives conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). That agency paid many individuals and groups involved in numerous proceedings during a nine-year period to perform a number of tasks in diverse contexts.
The initial section of this Article describes the origins and development of participant funding, focusing on the Consumer Product Safety Commission's institution and implementation of the compensation concept. The second part of the Article assesses the quality, and the impact on administrative decisionmaking, of the reimbursed public involvement that occurred at the Commission. The third portion draws conclusions about funded activity in agency matters from the CPSC's experience, and the final section offers suggestions for future experimentation.
Carl Tobias, Great Expectations and Mismatched Compensation: Government Sponsored Public Participation in Proceedings of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 64 Wash. U.L.Q. 1101 (1986)