Federal agencies enacted 16 regulations for every one law written by elected officials last year, a new report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Wayne Crews found.
The flow of new rules often came through bureaucratic channels designed to skirt legal requirements that the government seek public comment before implementing a regulation.
While Congress passes just a few dozen bills each year, an unknown number of agencies push through thousands of regulations to create what Crews called "regulatory dark matter."
Some of the cleverly-enacted rules started as blog posts, the report said, such as Obamacare's employer mandate and the tax penalty that would enforce it. Other regulations began as asides in press conferences, such as Obama's assurance that health insurance companies could continue to offer plans that did not comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Crews noted that part of the problem comes from the fact that "no one can say with complete authority exactly how many federal agencies exist." Various lists place the number of agencies anywhere from a few dozen to more than 400, but there is no comprehensive list of government offices.
The Department of Education, for example, fired off rules at a rate of one per business day that slapped schools and colleges with new mandates.
Regulatory dark matter can also include vague federal "guidance" that contains "veiled warnings" that people should comply, Crews said.
For instance, the Equal Opportunity Commission put forth guidance on its website for employers on how they should handle pregnancy. That's an issue Democratic candidates bring up frequently on the campaign trail.
The number of executive orders enacted under Obama didn't far outweigh those put forward by his predecessors, Crews found. However, the nature of those orders mattered far more, Crews noted, and Obama's orders and executive "memoranda" greatly expanded the power of the government.