We host regular events, both virtually and in-person, on important oversight and public policy topics of the day. We bring together lawmakers, scholars, policy experts, activists, community organizers, journalists, and attorneys to discuss the conduct of oversight across a wide range of issues, including:  disaster response, criminal justice reforms, oversight of government contracts, or how oversight can be conducted in the digital marketplace. Join us!

Upcoming Events

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Join our future events

Look through our events calendar for upcoming panels and presentations and join us!

Past Events

The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy hosted a conversation about government program design and the tension between maximizing user accessibility and ensuring program integrity and security. Special guests include: Jennifer Pahlka, author of Recording America; Michele Evermore, former deputy director of the Department of Labor Office of Unemployment Insurance Modernization; Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General, U.S. Dept. of Justice, and Chair, Pandemic Response Accountability Committee; and James Kaufman, Alaska State Senator, who discussed the challenges of facilitating access to government services and benefits while minimizing waste, fraud, and abuse.  
The Levin Center explores the fundamental challenges of governance and legislative oversight in an increasingly digital world. Special guests are Jennifer Pahlka, author of Recording America, Representative Jeff Johnson from the South Carolina legislature, and Michael Brennan from Detroit’s own Civilla discussing their efforts to bring a user-centric approach to government programs and oversight.  
Wayne State University Law School and the Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy Hosted the American Bar Association’s Gathering of Leaders in Taking the Next Step: Ensuring Trusted Elections and Civics for Michiganders
Community leaders, scholars, educators, and public servants joined Wayne State Law School and its Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy as they hosted the American Bar Association Task Force for American Democracy’s Taking the Next Step: Ensuring Trusted Elections and Civics for Michiganders, co-sponsored by Keep the Republic. The invitation-only event was held Friday, March 15, 2024, at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. Introductory remarks were delivered by American Bar Association President Mary Smith, Director of Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy Jim Townsend, past ABA president and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, and State Bar of Michigan President Daniel D. Quick. Mayor Archer, former Supreme Court Justice Kurtis Wilder, and State Bar President Daniel Quick served as Co-Chairs of the gathering’s Host Committee. “Safeguarding our elections and promoting civics education are crucial to strengthening democracy in our state and the nation. We are honored to host this vital day of discussion at Wayne Law,” said Richard Bierschbach, Dean and John W. Reed Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School. Former federal judge and co-chair of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy J. Michael Luttig spoke about the ever-present “Threat to Democracy” and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spoke to attendees about “Making the Best System and Defending Against Attacks.” “Here in Michigan, we have undergone a great transformation over the last several years in our democracy. And the infrastructure of our elections has, in my view, never been stronger,” Secretary Benson said. “The next eight months are going to define the future of our country…and the actions we take in the next eight months will define not just the future of our country, but in my view, the strength of our democracy moving forward.” Executive Director and Founder of the Center for Election Innovation and Research David Becker hosted a panel with Michigan election experts to discuss the challenges the state faced during the administration of the 2020 presidential election and the strategies that have been implemented and strengthened to provide greater security and trust for the state’s future elections. Panelist and Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck, who has served as Ottawa county clerk and register of deeds for the past nine years, said the reason he is still in his role is to build trust in the election system. “People trust information from sources that they trust. And I think my job is to be somebody people in my community trust,” Roebuck said. Echoing her colleague’s remarks, Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons encouraged voters to be responsible while engaging in the civic process where she emphasized the importance of maintaining accurate voter information and voter lists. Lyons also spoke to how education, transparency and participation are key to establishing, bolstering and sustaining public trust. “I always tell people we have so many checks and balances built into our law. We have so many transparent opportunities for people to participate. And truly I say, ‘Don’t just take my word for it; see for yourself.” Levin Center director Jim Townsend who moderated the session’s panel on civic education and civility, was encouraged to see the energy and participation from all panelists, speakers, and attendees that were in attendance. During the panel on civics education and civility Townsend said: “mandating the teaching of civics is not enough, we need to find more effective means of engaging students with how our democratic system works and what it means for their lives. That means investing in both in-class and afterschool programs and providing teachers with support and innovative lessons that bring civics to life.” Attendees were also given the opportunity to engage in discussions and present their views on the safeguarding of our electoral process and strengthening of civics education and civil discourse in Michigan. In breakout room sessions, Attendees were able to speak amongst themselves on a variety of issues including the polarization of our democracy, the need for a more robust civics education for young people, and the importance of remaining open and civil with one another when seeking solutions to the present and emerging problems in America today.
Closing remarks were delivered by former Secretary of Homeland Security and co-chair of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy Jeh Charles Johnson. Secretary Johnson spoke at length about the challenges and the importance in the country’s fight for democracy. Drawing on his vast experiences and personal engagement as a civil servant, Secretary Johnson left attendees with the message to not be discouraged in the battles ahead to bolster our democratic processes and to remain hopeful in creating solutions that will ensure the next generation to be able to do the same.
Taking the Next Step is a speaker and discussion series that brings together a diverse and bipartisan group of community leaders and election officials in each of the seven states anticipated to be the main political battlegrounds in the 2024 presidential election. The series is designed to facilitate open discussions on the administration of elections throughout Michigan and the importance of civics education and civility to democracy. The Detroit meeting followed the first in the series which was held in February 2024, in Atlanta, GA.
In celebration of Black History Month, we interviewed Shirley Stancato – seasoned executive, prominent civic leader, and expert on race relations. Shirley is Chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors and was appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as co-chair of the Growing Michigan Together Council, a bipartisan initiative aimed at growing the state population.
Professor Jason MacDonald presented his award winning paper “The Rise and Fall of Congressional Oversight of the Bureaucracy: The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 1969-2018.” Moderated by our current Levin Center Oversight Fellow, Professor Sean Theriault of the University of Texas at Austin, the presentation was followed by discussion and Q&A from the audience.
Watch our 2022/23 Oversight Fellows as they present their fellowship research on the institutional and political conditions that influence congressional oversight of presidential appointees and the relationship between congressional oversight activity and committee spending on personnel. Presenters:
  • Christina Kinane, Assistant Professor of Political Science @Yale University – 2022 Levin Center Oversight Fellow
  • Josh McCrain, Assistant Professor of Political Science @University of Utah – 2022 Levin Center Oversight Fellow
  • Jason MacDonald – Associate Professor of Political Science @West Virginia University
On May 16, the winner of our 2022 Research Award, Professor Dave Rapallo of Georgetown University Law Center, discussed his award-winning paper “House Rules: Congress and the Attorney-Client Privilege”. Professor Rapallo’s paper offers a compelling and timely defense of the right of Congress to determine whether, when, and how to recognize the attorney-client privilege and other judicially created common law privileges when seeking information in the course of an oversight investigation. The paper presents persuasive historical and judicial precedents and offers an engaging alternative reading of Supreme Court dicta on this matter in the 2020 Mazars opinion. The discussion was moderated by Professor Gregory Fox, Wayne State University Law School. Downloads:
The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy was honored to interview U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) on his long and distinguished career in Congress and the important legislative oversight work he pursued throughout the years culminating in the chairmanship of the U.S. House January 6 Select Committee.
On Wednesday, February 8, 2023, the Levin Center hosted an online panel of legal experts to discuss how federal courts are shaping the ability of Congress to investigate issues and obtain information. The panel delves into cases decided from 2021 to 2022, discussing the emerging case law affecting such issues as whether the Speech and Debate clause bars suits challenging congressional subpoenas, Congress’ authority to subpoena tax return information, the impact of executive and common law privileges on congressional inquiries, and the rejuvenation of contempt of Congress prosecutions. Panelists:
  • Doug Letter, Former General Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Emily Berman, Professor of Law, Houston University Law Center
  • Andy Grewal, Professor of Law, Iowa College of Law
  • Will Ortman, Associate Professor of Law & Edward M. Wise Research Scholar, Wayne State University Law School
Moderated by Elise Bean – Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy For more information, see the case pleadings collected in Levin Center’s Oversight Case Law tracker.

The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and Georgetown Law Center for Congressional Studies partnered to present a live and in-person panel on how the innovative approaches used by the January 6 Select Committee will affect future oversight hearings by Congress.


  • Kristin Amerling, Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the January 6 Committee
  • Reginald Brown, Kirkland & Ellis partner who represented witnesses before the January 6 Committee
  • Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour correspondent who covered the January 6 Committee hearings
  • Professor David Rapallo, Georgetown University Law Center, and former longtime congressional investigator


  • Victoria Nourse, Ralph V. Whitworth Professor in Law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Jim Townsend, Director, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy

Watch on C-SPAN

For additional information on the January 6 Committee:

State legislatures play a critical role in governing the United States. They serve as the workbenches of our “laboratories of democracy.” And one out of two members of Congress have previously held office as state legislators. Thus the craftways of representation, legislation, and oversight they learn–or fail to–in statehouses leave a profound imprint on our democracy. How do the best state legislators approach their responsibilities and build sustainable coalitions in our fractious political environment? How do they succeed in politics and policymaking? How do they lead and govern? Looking ahead, how are the challenges and prospects evolving for stellar leadership of the sort they provide–and should that give us hope or pause for the future? To explore these questions, “Success in the States” brings state lawmakers identified by independent observers as exceptional political leaders into conversation with each other. The lawmakers are joined by leaders of nonprofits dedicated to supporting better political leadership in the U.S. to reflect on the issues at stake for our democracy. The co-hosts for this lunchtime event include the Center for Effective Lawmaking, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, Lyceum Labs, and the Millennial Action Project.
State audit recommendations can improve state government transparency, accountability, and effectiveness. Legislators often rely on audit recommendations to develop solutions for problems plaguing states. At the same time, poorly designed or inartfully worded audit recommendations can lead to missed opportunities to improve government performance. How can auditors better share their expertise through recommendations to help foster effective legislator responses to the concerns of the public? How can legislators work with auditors to develop and utilize audit recommendations to enhance their own legislative oversight? How should state legislators, state auditors, and their staffs interact to leverage their combined expertise to produce and implement useful audit recommendations? Watch our panel discussion co-sponsored by NASACT and the Levin Center on audit recommendations for a legislative audience, and how to improve the state oversight ecosystem by helping lawmakers see state auditors as an essential resource for expertise and oversight capacity.    
Watch our discussion with U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and John Moolenaar (R-MI) analyzing the 2022 mid-term election results.
Elise Bean presented at the 2022 iLegis conference to an international audience on “Using Oversight Inquiries to Effect Change and Design Legal Reforms” Download Slides
Watch our fascinating discussion with GWU Professor of Political Science, Danny Hayes; NPR Congressional Correspondent, Claudia Grisales; and Founder & CEO of Brown Impact Media Group, Jiquanda Johnson.  For our democratic system to work, our leaders, institutions, and citizens need to value facts and truthfulness. Recent years, however, have witnessed a steep decline in the public’s ability to separate fact from fiction. We’ve also learned the consequences can be deadly. The Levin Center  sponsored a three-part series of panels to delve more deeply into how facts become established in the public mind and how truthfulness might be restored to our public discourse. Our first two panels heard from scholars and former member of Congress. Our third panel features journalists, media professionals, and scholars discussing the role the media plays in shaping our understanding of facts. Our media landscape has undergone drastic changes in recent years with a steady decline in local news outlets, a sharp rise in news consumption through social media channels, and an increased fragmentation in national news outlets. Our panelists will discuss how these changes affect our society’s understanding of facts and how the media landscape can hinder or help us on the path to pursuing factual consensus.
Watch our fascinating discussion with former Senators Bill Cohen, Norm Coleman, and Claire McCaskill on how congressional committees work toward factual consensus in oversight investigations. For our democratic system to work, our leaders, institutions (both public and private), and citizens need to value facts and truthfulness. In recent years, however, we have witnessed mass disagreements over what is true and how to separate fact from fiction. We’ve also learned the consequences can be deadly. The Levin Center is sponsoring a three-part series of panels to delve more deeply into how facts become established in the public mind and how truthfulness might be restored to our public discourse. Our second panel featured three former senators with years of oversight expertise. They discussed the unique role played by Congress in resolving factual issues confronting the country, how committees conduct factual investigations, how committee members attempt to reach consensus on the facts, what happens when they can’t reach consensus, and how investigative hearings and reports affect public perceptions of what is true. They also provide interesting commentary on factfinding by the House committee examining the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
Congress’s oversight function is essential for the healthy functioning of our constitutional system. Yet, despite the importance of oversight, many questions arise in popular discourse about legislative efforts to examine important societal problems. Watch our conversation with the 2021 Levin Center Oversight Fellows on the issue. The discussion highlights new research on when, how, and why Congress conducts oversight. Panelists:
  • Kenneth Lowande, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan
  • Devin Judge-Lord, Post-Doctoral Researcher and Environmental Fellow, Center for the Environment, Harvard University
  • Claire Leavitt, Visiting Assistant Professor, Grinnell College
For our democratic system to work, public and private institutions, public officials, and citizens need to value facts and truthfulness. But recent years have witnessed mass disagreements over what is true and how to separate fact from fiction. Watch our discussion ‘Pursuing Factual Consensus: What Does “Truth” Mean in the Public Square?’ to delve more deeply into how facts become established in the public mind and how truthfulness might be restored to our public discourse. Panelists included:

Properly administered election audits are one of the most important tools states can use to improve voter confidence and election security. In 2020, however, state legislatures in multiple states used audits for the opposite goal of undermining the public’s faith in elections and the electoral results themselves. Watch our panel discussion as representatives from the Brennan Center for Justice and the R Street Institute discuss the audits that followed the last election cycle and explore options to strengthen oversight of our elections going forward. This virtual panel discussion is hosted by Wayne Law’s Voting Rights and Election Law Society and the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy.


  • Matt Germer, Resident Elections Fellow, Governance Program, R Street Institute.
  • Derek Tisler, Counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice.

Download the Election Audit Report referenced in the panel discussion

“Oversight, Infrastructure, and Federalism: Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Effectiveness of U.S. Infrastructure Investments”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 is poised to send billions of taxpayer dollars from the nation’s capital through the states to local communities to improve our roads, bridges, dams, broadband networks, electric vehicle charging stations, mass transit systems, and more.  To ensure the success of these historic infrastructure investments, action must be taken to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, and ensure the law lives up to its promise.  On March 25, 2022, the Levin Center and Wayne State University Law Review held a  one-day online symposium focused on meeting our infrastructure investment challenges and opportunities.

(Visit our symposium webpage for full bios of moderators and panelists and additional resources on infrastructure oversight.)

Welcoming Comments: U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

Panel 1:Establishing Mechanisms for Oversight of Infrastructure

Moderator: Beth Osborne – Director,  Transportation for America

  • Shruti Shah – President & CEO, Coalition for Integrity
  • Lawrence (Larry) Goldenhersh – President, Center for Sustainable Energy
  • Alexander (Alex) Beckmann – Senior Policy Advisor on Transportation and Infrastructure Issues, Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL)

Panel 2: Exercising Oversight of Infrastructure Performance

Moderator: Portia Bamiduro –  Technical Adviser to Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs, Amazon

  • Elizabeth (Biza) Repko – Director for Physical Infrastructure, GAO
  • Andrew (Andy) Doctoroff – Michigan Lead, Gordie Howe International Bridge Project & Adjunct Professor, University of Michigan Law School
  • Joseph (Joe) Colaianne – General Counsel, Four Lakes Task Force
  • John Sylvia – Director Performance Evaluation & Research Division, West Virginia State Legislature


Capacity Building

  • Build a culture of infrastructure oversight at the federal, state and local levels.
  • Establish a committee of inspectors general, either modeled after the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) or by expanding the PRAC mandate, to coordinate federal infrastructure oversight, data, and analysis.
  • Invest more in oversight capacity in the executive and legislative branches, at the federal and state levels, to enable more rigorous and timely investigations and reports.
  • Build into federal and state laws, regulations, and practices up-front risk assessments, continuous auditing, and fraud detection.

Public Involvement

  • Build a public website that tracks spending under the IIJA and enables public and private sector analysis of government and contractor spending and performance.
  • Expand up-front community involvement in infrastructure policy and projects, particularly in establishing project needs, scope, and design.
  • Educate national, state, and local media about the IIJA to assist in media oversight.

Design & Practice

  • Encourage states to be more specific about their infrastructure goals in planning documents and performance metric design. Encourage reviews of past state projections for congestion reduction, reliability, safety improvements, and repair to identify challenges and improve future projections.
  • Monitor and critique performance of infrastructure programs, including formula-based programs, using agreed upon goals and criteria, including repair and safety.
  • Enlist project owners, auditors, agencies, prime contractors, and lawmakers in executing different aspects of oversight of specific infrastructure projects.

Data & Measurement

  • Require more timely availability of data on infrastructure condition, safety, and performance management results. Measure the movement of people and the performance of non-car transportation systems.
  • For electric vehicle charging stations, create a national data warehouse, direct grantees and contractors to supply data on charger use, reliability, and performance, and ensure the data is collected and analyzed.
  • Leverage technology and best practices from industry regarding useful performance criteria and methods for gathering infrastructure performance data.


  • Provide training for state and local government personnel on project planning and cost estimation to enable effective reviews of contractor bids and make informed selections.
  • Build oversight elements into infrastructure contracts requiring contractors to report performance data on a timely basis and cooperate with agency and auditor oversight.
  • Build oversight costs into each contract.
  • Provide state contracting officer and supervisor training on the collection and analysis of contract performance data (quality metrics, pay protocols tied to milestones, safety performance) and how to deal with subpar performance.
  • Encourage or require cost estimates to be updated every 3 years.


Links and materials shared during symposium:

Watch Panel 1

Watch Panel 2

This webinar for state legislators and staff features Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) and Levin Center experts covering state pandemic response and oversight. PRAC shared information on state auditor reports, data available on federal relief funds, and pandemic response issues across the country. The Levin Center discussed oversight in response to state audit and other monitoring tools, and state oversight best practices for state legislators seeking to enhance their pandemic response oversight. Presented during Sunshine Week in contribution to the pursuit of greater government transparency. Speakers:
  • Ben Eikey – State Training and Communications Manager, Levin Center
  • Rehana Mohammed, Associate Director for Transparency, PRAC
  • Lisa Reijula,  Associate Director for Communications and Outreach, PRAC
Resource links shared in the session:
‘Oversight Riders’ won the 2021 Levin Center Award for Excellence in Oversight Research, a yearly award by the Levin Center to promote constructive research into oversight by legislative bodies. The Levin Center Award for Excellence in Oversight Research is designed to encourage, acknowledge, and heighten the visibility of scholarly papers examining important oversight issues at the national, state, tribal, local or international levels. Professor Stack and Professor Vandenbergh, both from Vanderbilt Law School, offer a compelling, timely, and original thesis on an important appropriations mechanism long overlooked as a way to create personal incentives for executive branch officials to comply with congressional information requests. Watch their presentation and discussion of the paper! Download Paper
On January 13, 2022, the Levin Center released its “Portraits in Oversight” – short profiles that describe important congressional investigations and trace the work of key figures in the history of legislative oversight. The portraits explore congressional oversight from 1792 to the present day, including inquiries into the Civil War, covert CIA operations, Enron, and Watergate and such figures as Senators Harry Truman and Joe McCarthy, and Representative John Dingell. As part of Wayne State University’s Black History Month, we were delighted to co-sponsor a panel discussion on Representative Elijah Cummings’ Portrait in Oversight. For 23 years, Elijah E. Cummings, the son of sharecroppers, represented Maryland’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Elected in 1996, he served on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from his earliest days in Congress until his death in 2019, becoming its Ranking Minority Member in December 2010 and Committee Chair in his last year. During his committee tenure, Rep. Cummings participated in a wide range of high-profile investigations, from inquiries into high-priced prescription drugs that put health care out of reach for average families, to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, to the separation of families at the U.S. border.
This event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, a Congressionally chartered, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on the history and heritage of the U.S. Capitol.
In January 2022, the Levin Center released over a dozen Portraits in Oversight, profiles that describe important congressional investigations and trace the work of key figures in the history of legislative oversight. The Portraits explore congressional oversight from 1792 to the present day, including inquiries into the Civil War, covert CIA operations, Enron, and Watergate and such figures as Representatives John Dingell and Elijah Cummings and Senators Harry Truman and Joe McCarthy. Our panel of historians explore the role of congressional oversight in our history and how these investigations influenced our understanding of the American story. This event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, a Congressionally chartered, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on the history and heritage of the U.S. Capitol.
Relevant links mentioned in the discussion and placed in the webinar chat: Opening Remarks: Moderator: Panelists:

On November 8, 2021, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy hosted a conversation with the Deputy Secretary of Defense on how business and government can work together to drive innovation and enable the military to tackle climate change and other pressing issues.

Background on the Deputy Secretary:

  • Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks is the 35th Deputy Secretary of Defense; she was sworn into that office on Feb. 9, 2021.
  • In this role, Dr. Hicks serves as the chief operating officer of the U.S. Military in charge of day-to-day business across a nearly 3-million-person enterprise.
  • Dr. Hicks is the highest-ranking woman in the history of the Department of Defense and the U.S. military.
  • For more information, please view Dr. Hicks’ bio on the DoD pages.
In 2019, the House Judiciary Committee filed suit to enforce a subpoena compelling White House counsel Donald McGahn to testify. The Trump White House claimed absolute immunity on McGahn’s behalf. After two years of intense litigation and multiple court decisions, in May 2021, the Committee and the Biden Administration agreed to dismiss the case and have McGahn testify in executive session with certain limitations. The agreement left a number of critical issues undecided by the courts including the key issue in the McGahn case, whether certain senior presidential aides are absolutely immune to congressional subpoenas. Various legislative proposals are now being considered to clarify to the courts Congress’ investigative authority and to expedite judicial decisions. Join us for an in-depth discussion of the reasons for and consequences of the McGahn settlement and the impact on separation of powers, checks and balances, and congressional oversight. 
  • Doug Letter, House of Representatives General Counsel
  • Michael Stern, Director, Point of Order Blog
  • Kate Shaw, Professor of Law, Cardozo School of Law
  • Reginald Brown, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis
As climate change intensifies hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires across the country, understanding how the government oversees our response has never been more important. The Levin Center is pleased to sponsor the presentation by our Oversight Scholar Professor Kristin Taylor on federal oversight of U.S. disaster policy and programs from 2016 to 2020. Professor Taylor describes a new database and the innovative analytic techniques she used to explore oversight undertaken by both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General related to short-term disaster recovery and long-term hazard mitigation policies.  was selected as the Levin Center Oversight Scholar for the 2020-2021 academic year and won a $17,000 award to support her disaster-related oversight work. Her scholarship examines the politics of disasters. She focuses on policy learning about hazard mitigation in federal systems of government. Professor Taylor’s work has been published in Policy Studies Journal, Administration & Society, Review of Policy Research, and the Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy.

Emergencies require a rapid government response, often with little time to screen vendors or review contracts. This sometimes leads to overpriced or mismanaged state contracts. How can state legislatures fulfill their oversight duties to scrutinize state contracts and protect taxpayers in an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic? Listen to state legislators from across the country discussing legislative oversight of contracts signed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel heard from three leading elected officials across the country, including

  • State Senator Dan Johnson from Idaho,
  • State Assemblymember David Chiu from California, and
  • State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh from Nebraska.

This panel discussion was recorded on May 4, 2021 sponsored by the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy. It follows the Levin Center’s recent

On April 9th, 2021 the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and the Wayne State University Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice jointly hosed a virtual panel discussion entitled “Corrections and Re-Entry: Legislative and Community Efforts for a Successful Transition after Prison“.  The panel addressed questions of re-entry from prison to society, featuring legislative, academic, and community perspectives. How can a prisoner’s re-entry to the community better serve the interests and needs of both? be done successfully? What factors hinder or foster successful re-entry? What oversight efforts do state legislatures and agencies need to engage in to ensure re-entry programs fulfill their promises?

The panel heard from

  • Michigan’s Legislative Corrections Ombudsman Keith Barber,
  • Former Representative Joe Haveman from Hope Network, and
  • Darryl Woods Sr., activist and returning citizen.

In March 2021, the Wayne State University Journal of Law in Society held it’s annual symposium in partnership with the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy. The Symposium was entitled “Opioid Paradigms: How Crisis Can Inform Change” and held three panels on three consecutive days addressing issues of access to addiction medical care, justice reforms as well as public health policy changes to tackle the opioid crisis. 

Panel 1: “Access to Addiction Medical Care” – March 10, 2021

The panel explored the barriers that individuals with opioid and other substance use disorders face in accessing medical treatment for addiction. The discussion focused on what challenges people who have insurance face in accessing treatment, and why these challenges have not been successfully eliminated. The panel considered the limits of mental health parity, why insurers are incentivized to deny treatment, economic precarity within the insured opioid user population, and what state and federal policy options there are to change the existing incentives. 


  • Valarie Blake, Professor of Law at West Virginia University;
  • Katherine Vukadin, Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law Houston;
  • Taleed El-Sabawi, Assistant Professor of Law at Elon University; and
  • Matthew Lawrence, Associate Professor at Emory School of Law.

Opening remarks were provided by Dean Richard Bierschbach, Wayne State University Law School.

Moderation was provided by Professor Lance Gable, Wayne State University Law School.

Panel 2: “Opioids and Emerging Justice Reforms” – March 11, 2021

This panel explored reforms in the criminal justice system in response to the opioid crisis, and addressed how those changes are connected to broader calls for change.  As public and legal view of the crisis has informed policy, this has created multiple responses within the criminal justice system.  Panel topics included how race informs drug sentencing, rural prosecution strategies and reforms, American cultural views of drug use, and emerging policies to address opioids and other drug crises more effectively and humanely.


  • Jelani Jefferson-Exum, Professor of Law at the University of Detroit Mercy;
  • Valena Beety, Professor of Law and Deputy Director of Academy for Justice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; and
  • Brittany Kelly, Associate Director Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University.

Opening remarks were provided by Jim Townsend, Director, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy.

Moderation was provided by Professor William Ortman, Wayne State University Law School.

Panel 3: “Policy and Public Health” – March 12, 2021

This panel addressed how opioid policy is connected to political and cultural narratives.  It connected the healthcare and criminal arms of opioid policy by presenting a view of how political and public attitudes shape the ways we address problems legally and in other professional fields.  Panelists discussed what creates counterproductive public narratives, and what kinds of structures and strategies lawyers and policymakers can use to move towards better thinking. 


  • Courtney Anderson, Associate Professor of Law Georgia State University;
  • Robin Fretwell Wilson, University of Illinois College of Law Director of Institute of Government and Public Affairs; and
  • Patrick Shannon, Chief Judge for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan.

Opening Remarks were provided by Ben Van Barr, Editor, Journal of Law in Society.

Moderation was provided by Veronica Walrad, Journal of Law in Society.

On January 22, 2021 Professor Emily Berman, winner of the 2020 Levin Center Award for Excellence in Oversight Research, presented her paper  in an online lecture hosted by the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy.

This law review article examines the role of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in oversight matters, details how OLC opinions have been used to favor the Executive Branch over Congress in inter-branch oversight disputes, and reviews possible reforms to cure imbalances created by the citation of OLC opinions in court.

Emily Berman’s scholarship examines the unique separation-of-powers  challenges that arise in the constitutional, statutory, and regulatory regimes governing national-security policy. She focuses in particular on ways to impose traditional conceptions of government oversight on law enforcement and intelligence operations. Professor Berman’s work has been published in top journals and her opinion pieces have appeared in JustSecurity, The Atlantic Online, the National Law Journal, Legal Times Online, and


The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy was invited to speak at the Council of State Government’s National Conference 2020. The session entitled “Strengthening the Role of Legislative Oversight” was hosted by the CSG West Oversight Working Group. The Levin Center presentation was followed by a panel discussion hearing from three different lawmakers in different states. The session was moderated by Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-CA).

Levin Center presentation:

  • Jim Townsend, Levin Center Director
  • Elise Bean, Levin Center Washington Office Director
  • Ben Eikey, State Training and Communications Manager

Panel discussion:

  • Assemblymember Dan Quart, New York State Assembly, Chair, Commission on Administrative Regulations Review
  • Senator Sarah Elfreth, Maryland State Senate, Chair, Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review
  • Senator Dan Johnson, Idaho State Senate

 (no-cost registration required to view the recording)

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School hosted an online panel entitled “Post-Election Analysis” on Tuesday, November 10, 12:00pm – 1:15pm EDT. The Zoom webinar discussed the election result and its implications for the next Congress and the country’s future. The panelists were: U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-12, D) Former U.S. Representative Dave Trott (R) Welcoming and closing remarks were provided by Levin Center director Jim Townsend and Levin Center State Training and Communications Manager Ben Eikey.

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School and the Wayne Law Review hosted an online panel entitled “Congressional Oversight of the Digital Marketplace: Protecting Competition, Privacy and the Truth” on Thursday, October 29, 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. EDT.

The Zoom webinar discussed how Congress uses its oversight authority to oversee digital corporations raising antitrust, privacy, and disinformation concerns.

The panelists were:

Prof. Priscilla Regan, George Mason University, who provided an overview of over 50 congressional oversight hearings over the last 5 years examining privacy, disinformation, and competition issues raised by U.S. digital corporations.

Slade Bond, Chief Majority Counsel, House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, who discussed that Subcommittee’s recent two year-long anti-trust investigation of major U.S. digital corporations (pdf).

Alyssa DaCunha, WilmerHale partner, who discussed representing digital corporations in a wide range of congressional oversight investigations.

Welcoming remarks were provided by Levin Center director Jim Townsend and Wayne Law Review editor William Broman.

This panel is part of a broader effort to examine congressional oversight of science and technology issues.

On September 24, 2020 from 12.15pm until 1.30pm, the Levin Center and the Damon J Keith Center at Wayne Law jointly hosted a virtual panel entitled, “Detroit Police Commission Past and Present: Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement in Historical Context.” The panel discussed civilian oversight of the police in Detroit over time, including creation of the Detroit Police Commission, its impact, and challenges today. 

The Zoom webinar, which was live-streamed on YouTube to allow for wider audiences, heard from:

Senator Carl Levin for opening remarks

Avern Cohn – U.S. District Court Judge (ret.)

Evette Griffie – Police Commissioner (District 2) 

Tawana Petty – Director, Data Justice Program, Detroit Community Technology Project

Welcoming remarks and moderation were provided by Levin Center Director Jim Townsend, while closing remarks were given by Professor Peter Hammer, Director of the Damon J Keith Center for Civil Rights. 

On June 24, from 2:00 – 3:15pm, as part of a broader effort examining congressional oversight of science and technology issues, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and the Wayne Law Review jointly hosted an online panel on congressional oversight of issues related to cybersecurity. 

The webinar on the Zoom platform heard from:

Moderator: Prof. Fred Chang, Department of Computer Science Chair and Director of the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security, Southern Methodist University

Patrick Warren, Counsel, U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), who discussed PSI’s cybersecurity oversight efforts, including its 2019 report on cyber vulnerabilities at 8 agencies.

Prof. Chris Bryant, University of Cincinnati, and Assistant Prof. Kimberly Breedon, Barry University School of Law, who discussed using congressional oversight to address conflicts of interest and cybersecurity issues related to voting systems.

Prof. M. Tia Johnson, Georgetown University Law Center, who discussed election cyber vulnerabilities, highlighting a 2018 report by the Congressional Task Force on Election Security.

Prof. Jonathan Lewallen, University of Tampa, who explored Congress’ use of information sharing requirements to evaluate cybersecurity vulnerabilities and performance. 

Welcoming remarks were provided by Levin Center director Jim Townsend and Wayne Law Review editor William Broman. 


On May 27, 2020, from 2:00pm-3:30pm, the Levin Center and Wayne Law Review at Wayne State University Law School held an online panel for scholars via the Zoom webinar platform on “Congressional Oversight Databases.” The panel highlighted three new and exciting databases that can be used to conduct research related to congressional oversight.

The panel of experts included:

  • Daniel Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, who moderated the panel.
  • Jamie Spitz, The Lugar Center, who discussed the Center’s new oversight database with over 20,000 congressional oversight hearings and individual committee evaluations.
  • Molly Reynolds, The Brookings Institution, who discussed Brookings’ new real-time House Oversight Tracker following House oversight of the executive branch.
  • Professor Jonathan Lewallen, University of Tampa, who discussed the long-standing U.S. Policy Agendas Project at the University of Texas, including its collection of over 100,000 congressional hearings from 1946 to 2017.

Introductory remarks were also provided by Levin Center Director Jim Townsend and Wayne Law Review Editor William Broman.

On January 24, 2020, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., from 9:00am-11:30am, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy held a half-day conference on emerging federal case law related to congressional oversight investigations. Four panelists with congressional oversight expertise spoke.

  • Jonathan Adler, Johan Verheij memorial professor of law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson, associate professor, Wayne State University Law School
  • Victoria Nourse, Ralph V. Whitworth professor in law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Andrew Wright, partner, K&L Gates LLP. 

The panel moderator was Elise Bean, director of the Levin Center’s Washington Office. In addition, welcoming and closing remarks were provided by Levin Center director Jim Townsend. 

Symposium Overview

On December 6, 2019, in the Capitol Visitors Center, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m., the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy hosted a half-day symposium on how to strengthen Congress’ ability to oversee science and technology.  The symposium highlighted two reports: “Building a 21st Century Congress: Improving Congress’ Science and Technology Expertise” by the Belfer Center and the recently released “Science and Technology Policy Assessment” by the National Academy of Public Administration.  Following the presentation of the two reports, a panel of experts discussed their reactions to the reports and future options.  A question and answer session followed. 


9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks:     

  • Congressman Mark Takano
  • Senator Tom Tillis (by video)

9:30 a.m. Presentation of Reports:

10:15 a.m. Panel Discussion:

  • Moderator: Grace Gedye, The Washington Monthly
  • Alex Givens, Director, Institute for Technology, Law, and Policy, Georgetown Law School, and former Chief Counsel for Senator Leahy on the Antitrust Subcommittee 
  • Peter Blair, Executive Director, National Academy of Sciences/Division of Engineering and Physical Sciences and former Assistant Director, OTA 
  • Tim Persons, Chief Scientist, GAO’s Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) office                       
  • Ali Nouri, President, Federation of American Scientists 

11:00 a.m. Question & Answer Session

11:25 a.m. Closing Remarks were provided by Levin Center Director Jim Townsend

In 1812, cartoonist Elkanah Tisdale altered the political vocabulary of the United States forever when he rendered the voting districts of the state of Massachusetts, then under the leadership of Governor Elbridge Gerry, in the image of the “Gerry-mander,” an animal somewhere between a vulture and a salamander.  Gerrymandering has figured heavily in the history of U.S. elections and has recently made headlines again as communities around the nation face questions about the constitutionality of using independent commissions to redraw district lines, the effects of counting prison inmates as constituents in the counties in which the prisons reside, and how partisan gerrymandering disproportionately affects communities of color and voters who have been “packed, stacked, and cracked” in order to provide an advantage for one political party or the other.

Symposium Overview

On Friday, March 22, 2019, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, together with The Journal of Law in Society, held a symposium entitled “Gerrymandering: The Power of Boundaries” with to foster civil discourse on this matter of rapidly evolving public policy. Leading scholars from around the U.S. joined experts from Wayne State University to discuss partisan gerrymandering and race-based redistricting in a full-day event.  Michigan’s newly elected Secretary of State and former Wayne Law Dean Jocelyn Benson provided keynote remarks.


8:45 a.m. Opening remarks

  • Former U.S. Sen. chair, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy; distinguished legislator in residence, Wayne Law
  • Emad Hamadeh, editor-in-chief, The Journal of Law in Society

9:00 a.m. Keynote speaker

9:45 a.m. Gerrymandering: Past, Present, and Future

  • , associate professor and faculty associate at the Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan
  • James Lancaster, chief counsel, Voters Not Politicians
  • , president, Citizens Research Council of Michigan
  • Moderator: , associate professor, Wayne Law

11:15 a.m. Race-Based Redistricting

  • , Edward and Ellen Schwarzman professor of law and director, Duke Law Center on Law, Race, and Politics, Duke University School of Law
  • , attorney and legal director, Prison Policy Initiative
  • , assistant professor, New York University School of Law
  • Moderator: Rhonda Haidar, symposium editor, Journal of Law in Society

1:30 p.m. Political Gerrymandering and the U.S. Constitution

  • , Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold chair in constitutional law and director of Election Law @ Moritz, Moritz College of Law at Ohio State
  • , professor and Herbert and Marjorie Fried research scholar, University of Chicago Law School
  • , Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold professor of constitutional law, Moritz College of Law at Ohio State
  • , Walter S. Gibbs distinguished professor of constitutional law, Wayne Law
  • Moderator: Jonathan Weinberg, associate dean for research and faculty development, Wayne Law

3:00 p.m. Closing Remarks

  • Rhonda Haidar, symposium editor, The Journal of Law in Society

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Inspectors General Act, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy at Wayne State University Law School hosted a two-panel symposium in Washington, D.C. on “The Role of Inspectors General in Congressional Oversight.


9:00 a.m. Opening remarks

Levin Center director Robert Ackerman, former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and Wayne Law’s distinguished legislator in residence, and Inspector General Michael Horowitz of the U.S. Department of Justice

9:20 a.m. Panel 1: 

  • David Buckley, former inspector general, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Kathy Buller, inspector general, Peace Corps; chair of the Legislation Committee for the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency
  • DeLisa Lay, senior investigative counsel, majority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Jonathan Skladany, chief policy counsel, majority staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
  • John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction
  • Moderator: Eleanor Hill, former inspector general, Department of Defense 

10:45 a.m. Panel 2: 

  • Dan Blair, senior counselor, Bipartisan Policy Center
  • Beryl Davis, director of financial management and assurance, Government Accountability Office
  • Peter Tyler, senior policy analyst, Project on Government Oversight
  • Moderator: Peg Gustafson, inspector general, Department of Commerce 

11:45 a.m. Closing remarks by Linda Gustitus, co-director of the Levin Center Washington Office

On Friday, March 23, 2018, the Levin Center and Wayne Law Review held a symposium on “Congressional Oversight in the 21st Century.” Leading scholars from across the country explored the definition of congressional oversight and how best to measure its effectiveness, examined the relationship of oversight and the judicial branch, and discussed various tools and mechanisms involved in conducting fact-based, bipartisan oversight. The symposium took place at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit.

This symposium was made possible, in part, by generous funding from the Cohn Family Endowed Fund.

Symposium overview

When conducted on a bipartisan basis, with a commitment to finding the facts and uncovering the truth, congressional oversight fulfills the checks and balances envisioned by the Constitution, fosters bipartisan legislative relationships, engenders public trust in legislatures, and improves policy and government programs. 

In June 2017, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy hosted a . This event was the first of its kind in the United States, bringing experts from across the country to Detroit to encourage increased academic research into the legal, political and historical aspects of congressional oversight investigations, techniques and effectiveness, and its role in the constitutional system of checks and balances. The Wayne Law Review Symposium built upon the energy and momentum from that gathering.

Read the Levin-Bean law review article: 

Read the entire edition: 


9:30 a.m.: Opening remarks

  • , dean and professor, Wayne State University Law School
  • Former U.S. Sen. chair, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy; distinguished legislator in residence, Wayne Law
  • , editor-in-chief, Wayne Law Review

10:00 a.m.: Defining Congressional Oversight and Measuring its Effectiveness

  • , Richard J. Richardson distinguished professor of political science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  •  public interest director, University of Michigan Law School
  • , vice president of policy, R Street Institute
  •  assistant professor of political science, University of Tampa
  • Moderator: , William Rand Kenan Jr. distinguished professor, University of North Carolina School of Law

11:30 a.m.: Congressional Oversight and the Judicial Branch

  • , dean of academic affairs, professor, Randolph-Macon College
  • , associate dean for academic affairs, associate professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
  • Morgan Frankel, deputy U.S. senate legal counsel, Office of Senate Legal Counsel
  • Moderator: , professor, University of Minnesota Law School

1:15 p.m.: Keynote speaker

  • Steve Castor, chief investigative counsel, U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform under Chairman Trey Gowdy
  • Introduced by: , professor, Wayne Law; director, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy

2:00 p.m.: Congressional Oversight: Tools and Topics

  • Kimberly Breedon, independent legal scholar
  • , Rufus King professor of constitutional law, University of Cincinnati College of Law
  • , Harry A. Bigelow Teaching Fellow, lecturer in law, University of Chicago Law School
  • , associate professor, Savannah Law School
  • Moderator: , professor, Washington University School of Law

3:30 p.m.: Closing remarks

  • , symposium editor, Wayne Law Review
  • , Washington co-director, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy

On November 10, 2017, at the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, the Levin Center held a day-long symposium on “Current Issues in Immigration Law: Detention, ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ and the ‘Travel Ban.’”

The event brought together top scholars and leaders from across the country to discuss the following topics:

  • Immigration Detention in the United States
  • Sanctuary Cities: Immigration Law Meets Federalism
  • Iraqi Deportations in Detroit: Community Perspectives and Responses
  • The President, the Courts and the “Travel Ban”

Eighteen experts participated in the event, hailing from institutions including Georgetown University Law Center, University of Michigan Law School and University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Moderating the discussions (respectively) were Associate Professor Rachel Settlage, Professor Paul Dubinsky, Assistant Professor (Clinical) Sabrina Balgamwalla, and Professor Jonathan T. Weinberg, all members of the Wayne Law faculty.

Providing opening remarks were conference moderator Professor Robert M. Ackerman, director of the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy; Law School Dean Richard A. Bierschbach; and former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy.

This conference was made possible through the generous support of the Manoogian Simone Foundation and the Alex and Marie Manoogian Foundation.

On June 9, 2017, in an effort to elevate academic research into congressional oversight issues, the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy held a Scholars Roundtable on Congressional Oversight, the first such gathering in U.S. academic circles. The event took place at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. Roundtable participants included professors and other scholars who had conducted research into issues related to congressional oversight, including its legal, political, and historical basis, effectiveness, and role in the constitutional system of checks and balances. They spanned a range of academic disciplines including law, political science, political theory, and history.

Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin welcomed the roundtable participants. During the proceedings, participants were invited to describe their areas of research, interact with other scholars in the field, and contribute to development of a national research agenda to advance congressional oversight scholarship.

Professor Carpenter and Sen Levin

“Congressional oversight of the executive branch is more important than ever and is a bipartisan priority and responsibility of Congress, no matter who the President or what his party.  The Levin Center put on a fantastic and stimulating conference that gave me faith that the nation’s top minds in law and political science will be energetically studying this theme in the years to come.  Bravo to Wayne State Law School and to the Levin Center for launching this critical initiative.” — Harvard Professor Daniel Carpenter 


On January 31, 2017, in Washington, D.C., the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy held a half-day conference, “Next Steps in Offshore Multinational Corporate Tax.” Co-chaired by retired U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Tom A. Coburn, M.D., the conference provided a bipartisan setting for examining a variety of corporate tax issues being considered by the new Congress in connection with comprehensive corporate tax reform. The conference included a brief presentation of key issues by the panel moderator, drawing on past congressional tax oversight investigations, followed by an extended dialogue on the issues by the five panelists. 

Conference overview

At the time of the conference, corporate tax reform was a dominant topic of interest on the Washington agenda, but its pace and contours were still unknown. Panelists presented diverse views on how Congress and the new administration could tackle issues related to multinational corporate offshore profits. One major topic that provided a backdrop to the discussion was the practice of some U.S. multinationals of declaring an increasing share of their profits in offshore tax havens. Bipartisan congressional oversight investigations have disclosed how those profitable U.S. multinationals have shifted billions of dollars to low-tax jurisdictions, deferred or avoided paying U.S. taxes on those profits, and helped reduce the corporate share of U.S. taxes to a near all-time low.  

In addition to discussing the role of tax havens in U.S. corporate tax avoidance, the panelists addressed a number of other corporate tax issues including:

  • Future tax treatment of corporate foreign earnings;
  • The pros and cons of a tax holiday on offshore corporate profits;
  • The consequences of adopting proposed border adjustment tax reform;
  • Use of corporate tax revenues to fund infrastructure; and
  • Possible responses to European illegal state aid cases. 


Conference co-chairs

Retired U.S. Sen.  D-MI, is chair of the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, Wayne Law’s distinguished legislator in residence, and former chair of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations which, during his tenure, conducted bipartisan inquiries into a wide range of corporate tax matters.

Retired U.S. Sen.  M.D., R-OK, served in the U.S. Senate from 2005 to 2014 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001.  As former ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, he participated in corporate tax investigations and also introduced corporate tax legislation.

Welcoming remarks were also provided by Lance Gable, interim dean of Wayne State University Law School. 

Other speakers

Robert B. Stack is deputy assistant secretary (international tax affairs) for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In addition to overseeing development of U.S. international tax policy, he serves as the U.S. delegate to the Committee on Fiscal Affairs in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and to the Global Forum on Transparency. His last day in office is Jan. 20, 2017. 

 is the Johnson professor of law and business at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and a fellow at The Century Foundation. Previously, he was chief of staff for Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation.

 is of counsel at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C. Oosterhuis is an international tax attorney representing clients on a wide range of international and U.S. tax matters. He has extensive experience in international mergers and acquisitions, post-acquisition integration transactions, spin-offs, internal restructurings and joint venture transactions. He also represents multinational companies in non-transactional international tax planning and IRS controversy matters.

Moderating the discussion will be  Washington co-director for the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy. From 2003 to 2014, she served as staff director and chief counsel for Sen. Levin on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. For the second consecutive year, Bean was named to the Global Tax 50, an international list of 50 people and organizations who influenced tax policy.

Background material


Reports on offshore corporate tax matters by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations: 

Donald J. Trump’s infrastructure plan

Proposed border adjustment tax provisions

European actions to combat multinational corporate tax avoidance

Examining the Congressional-Executive Branch Struggle Over Access to Information

On October 25, 2016, in Washington, D.C., the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and The Constitution Project held a half-day conference called, “A Right to ‘Know’ or a Right to ‘No’? The conference was live-streamed on C-SPAN and looked at the tension between Congress’ constitutional responsibility to oversee the workings of the executive branch and the president’s claims of executive privilege and deliberative process in order to protect the inner workings of the White House. The conference consisted of two panels of experienced practitioners and distinguished scholars.

Conference overview

The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to serve as a check on the operations of the vast expanse of the executive branch. That responsibility has long been recognized as an integral part of our system of checks and balances. 

In 1927 the Supreme Court explicitly stated in the case of McGrain v. Daugherty: “We are of the opinion that the power of inquiry – with process to enforce it – is an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.”

That was reinforced in the 1957 case of Watkins v. the U.S. when the Supreme Court clearly acknowledged Congress’ inherent power to conduct investigations, stating it was a broad power, including “inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws”, needed statutes, defects in our social, economic, or political system, and “probes…to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste.”

In order for oversight to work, Congress has to know what’s going on in the executive branch. That means making demands on the executive branch for information – both documents and witnesses – and that often creates a tension between the two branches. The degree of that tension between the Congress and the administration over access to executive branch information varies from Congress to Congress based on a number of elements. These include the popularity of the president, congressional leadership, the issues being investigated, the degree of public interest, the presence or absence of criminal culpability, the individual personalities involved and the state of the law. Given the election of a new president and new Congress, this was a this was a meaningful time to review the rights, rules and principles that govern this inter-branch tug of war, and to contemplate the path forward. Questions addressed included whether reform is necessary to ensure that Congress can access the information it needs to check the executive branch effectively and how Congress should best be held accountable for using its oversight powers and tools appropriately.


Welcome and overview

  • Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chair, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy
  • Virginia Sloan, president, The Constitution Project

Panel one: Recent Developments in the Law on Congressional Access to Information

  • Steve Castor, deputy general counsel, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
  • David Hayes, distinguished visiting lecturer in law, Stanford Law School
  • Ronald Weich, dean, University of Baltimore School of Law
  • Andrew Wright, associate professor, Savannah Law School
  • Moderator: Linda Gustitus, Washington co-director, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy; former staff director, U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

Panel two: Is the Current System Working or Does it Need Reform?

  • Josh Chafetz, professor of law, Cornell Law School
  • Kerry Kircher, former general counsel, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Mort Rosenberg, former specialist in American public law, Congressional Research Service
  • Moderator: Jocelyn Benson, director, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy

The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy presented a half-day conference, “Congressional Oversight of Classified Programs – 40 Years after the Church Committee,” on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The conference, the first for the newly established Levin Center, reviewed the status of the Church Committee reforms of 1975 and Congress’ ability to oversee classified programs. The conference consisted of three panel discussions in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. Nine panelists and two moderators participated, and about 100 people attended the conference, which also was live streamed online. 

Conference overview

This is a timely subject in light of the recent disputes between Congress and the Executive Branch over the CIA interrogation program and the National Security Agency’s expansive eavesdropping on the American public.

The overall theme of the conference was the mechanics, difficulties and importance of congressional oversight of intelligence activities, in particular how to oversee covert operations, secret budgets and classified materials. Congress is charged under the Constitution with the responsibility to inform the public of the workings of its government and the issues that the government should address. To meet that responsibility Congress needs to have the facts about what actions the Executive Branch is taking and upon what basis in law the Executive Branch is acting. Getting those facts becomes particularly difficult when the programs Congress is overseeing are subject to classification. Yet the programs carried out by agencies such as the CIA can have long-lasting ramifications to the future health and well being of the country and its people.

This conference looked at one of the most successful reviews of secret or covert activities by the CIA, the Church Committee investigation, and gleaned the lessons learned from the conduct of that committee. The conference addressed the complex interaction of the oversight responsibilities of Congress with the classification of national security secrets by the Executive Branch and identify ways in which the two interests can be satisfied.

The U.S. Senate’s Church Committee, convened in 1975 and led by Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, was tasked with investigating federal intelligence operations in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the revelation of spying by the CIA on anti-war activists. 


8:30 a.m. – Opening and introductions by moderators

  • Former U.S. Sen. , D-Mich., chair of the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
  • Former U.S. Sen. , R-Ind., president of The Lugar Center and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Welcoming remarks were also provided by Linda Gustitus, co-director of the Levin Center’s Washington Office

9 to 10:30 a.m. – Panel One: The Church Committee’s Experience with Classified Information 

  • Moderator – Michael German, fellow, Brennan Center for Justice, Liberty and National Security Program.
  • Frederick A.O. “Fritz” Schwarz Jr., chief counsel of the Brennan Center. From 1975 to 1976, Schwarz was chief counsel to the Church Committee. He recently has written the book Democracy in the Dark: The Seduction of Government Secrecy.
  • Dr. Loch K. Johnson, regents professor of political science in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia. Johnson was special assistant to the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Oversight from 1975 to 1976. He also served as staff director of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Oversight from 1977 to 1979. In 1995 and 1996, Johnson worked with the chair of the Aspin-Brown Commission on Intelligence. He is the author of the book A Season of Inquiry, which provides an inside look at the operations of the Church Committee.
  • Morton Halperin, senior advisor to the Open Society Foundation. Halperin had a distinguished career in federal government, having served in the Clinton, Nixon and Johnson administrations. From 1975 to 1992, he served as the director of the Center for National Security Studies, where he was involved in the work of the Church Committee and contributed to the drafting of Senate Resolution 400. 

10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. – Panel Two: Post Church Oversight and Congress’ Responsibility to Know and to Inform the Public

  • Moderator – Laura K. Donohue, professor at Georgetown University Law School, director of Georgetown’s Center on National Security and the Law, and director of the Center on Privacy and Technology. She is working on The Future of Foreign Intelligence (Oxford University Press, 2015), focusing on the Fourth Amendment and surveillance in a digital world. A previous book, The Cost of Counterterrorism: Power, Politics, and Liberty (Cambridge University Press, 2008) looked at the impact of American and British counterterrorist law on life, liberty, property, privacy and free speech. Her articles have examined topics including the doctrine of state secrets and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and she has held numerous fellowships related to international security.
  • Eleanor J. Hill, a partner in the law firm of King Spalding. She has more than 33 years of experience handling investigations in both the public and private sector. She served as the staff director in 2002 for the bipartisan, bicameral Joint Congressional Inquiry on the September 11th Attacks. From 1995 through 1999, Hill served as inspector general to the Department of Defense. Prior to that, she served as chief counsel and staff director to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
  • Michael J. Glennon, professor of international law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Prior to teaching, he was legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (1977 to 1980). He was a Fulbright Distinguished Professor of International and Constitutional Law and Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and has served as a consultant to various congressional committees, the State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency. His latest book, National Security and Double Government, challenges the view that U.S. security policy is forged by America’s visible “Madisonian institutions,” the president, Congress and the courts.
  • Daniel Jones, professional staff member, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. During his nearly nine-year tenure with the committee, Jones has been responsible for the counterterrorism and counterintelligence oversight accounts and has led several of the committee’s most high-profile investigations, including the committee’s most-recent 6,700-page Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program (aka the “Senate Torture Report”). Prior to joining the committee, Jones worked at the FBI, where he supported senior officials in their management of international operations and investigations.
  • Benjamin A. Powell, a partner in the law firm of WilmerHale and co-chair of its cybersecurity, privacy and communications practice. In 2005, he was nominated by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Senate to serve as the first general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. He served as general counsel for the first three directors. Prior to that, he had served as special assistant to President Bush and as associate White House counsel.

12:30 to 1:30 p.m. – Lunch Panel: Achieving Fact-Based, Bipartisan Oversight of the Intelligence Community

  • Sen. Levin and Sen. Lugar will discuss past experiences with oversight of the intelligence community, the oversight problems involving classified materials and what needs to be done to ensure good oversight.

Suggested reading list for conference