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Meet Bill Kovacs

Meet Bill Kovacs

William L. Kovacs, usually referred to as “Bill Kovacs,” has been involved in the nation’s policymaking process for over four decades. He is an award-winning author for his book, Reform the Kakistocracy: Rule by the Least Able or Least Principled Citizens, received the Independent Press Award for Social/Political Change, and the 2020 Bronze award given by the Non-Fiction Authors Association.

Bill served as senior vice president for environment, technology & regulatory affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a chief counsel on Capitol Hill, chairman of a state environmental board, a partner in Washington, DC law firms, and a legislative assistant and counsel to a member of Congress. He has testified before Congress forty times, participated in several hundred federal agency rulemakings, written numerous policy and law review articles, and has given significant policy presentations in over forty states.

Some of his notable achievements include being chief counsel on the enactment of two historic laws in one session of Congress—the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the first U.S. law to regulate solid and hazardous waste, and the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, which reorganized the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad into Conrail. This law saved the railroad industry in the Northeast and Midwest United States and was the largest corporate reorganization in the U.S. at that time.

In other leadership efforts, Bill successfully led coalitions that resulted in the enactment of significant legislation, including the Federal Data Access law in 1999, Brownfields legislation in 2002, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and permit streamlining of infrastructure projects in 2017.

Perhaps Bill’s most impactful achievement is leading coalitions to defeat several Democrat attempts to enact sweeping climate change laws that would have imposed hundreds of regulations on all aspects of American society and trillions of dollars in costs with little environmental benefit since most of the world, i.e., China, India, Russia, were exempt from the massive regulatory costs imposed on U.S. companies. Bill sought an approach that relied on developing long-term transformative technologies, transparency of the science to resolve fundamental scientific uncertainties, global participation, and worldwide technology transfer. Bill’s efforts were so effective that a Brown University Climate and Development Lab study dubbed his actions the “Kovacs era ” of the Chamber’s climate discourse.

Bill’s first job on Capitol Hill was as a legislative assistant and counsel to Congressman Fred B. Rooney (D-PA). In that position, he led the successful litigation effort against the Nixon White House to declare illegal the impoundment of federal funds for local water and sewer programs. The Congressman won, and funds were allocated to his district.

In addition to his books, Bill has published numerous law review articles in major journals, commentary in trade publications and industry blogs, and led teams that produced numerous reports on the regulatory process, environmental law, energy policy, and telecommunications reform.

In 2020, Bill was awarded The Marquis Who’s Who Publishing Board Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2018, he received the Partner of the Year from the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, Bill has been listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, Who’s Who in the East, and Who’s Who of Emerging Leaders in America.

Side Notes on Bill’s Career.

Bill started his career in the early 1970s when there were giants on Capitol Hill like Wright Patman (of anti-trust fame), Manny Celler (The House Judiciary Committee chairman that led the passage of the Voting Rights Act 1965 and the Civil Rights Act 1968) and George Mahon (tight-fisted chairman of the House Appropriations Committee). In those days, members of Congress focused on policy, budgets, and the nation’s security. The federal deficit in 1970 was under one-half trillion dollars (today, it is approaching $35 trillion and increasing by a trillion dollars a year).

On the Senate side, there was Senator Sam Irvin, Jr., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, Committee on the Judiciary, 1973-1974, a tumultuous period of conflict between Congress and the Executive branch over the activities of the Department of Justice. Senator Irvin fought to ensure that the Executive remained within the powers granted it by the Constitution. During this period Bill filed a lawsuit for the member of Congress (Fred B. Rooney) who employed him.

The suit argued that President Nixon’s unilateral impoundment of congressionally appropriated funds was unconstitutional. In retaliation, the Nixon Department of Justice initiated a criminal investigation alleging that Bill had a conflict of interest under federal law since his role as congressional staff attorney was limited to legislative matters. Justice asserted the filing of a lawsuit was outside of his authorized duties. Senator Irvin incorporated the Justice Department’s investigation of Bill into his hearings on Removing Politics from the Administration of Justice (March 1974). Subsequently, the Justice Department dropped the investigation, and the federal district court for the District of Columbia found the administration’s action illegal and ordered the release of the $400 million impounded funds.

After the “Watergate Babies” took over Congress in 1975, the institution became a collection of independent egos, more concerned with supporting political parties and finding television cameras than preserving its Article I legislative powers and being a check on the other branches of government.

Between 1976 and today, Congress has increasingly delegated legislative Power to federal agencies, which have issued over two hundred thousand regulations, which are, in effect, laws. Around the same period, courts began finding rights in laws never envisioned by Congress and granting deference to the actions of federal agencies, notwithstanding congressional intent. More recently, the federal courts have been acting as super-legislatures by issuing nationwide injunctions to control national policy in place of Congress and the many other judges in district courts around the nation.

From this background, Bill’s writing originates.