Rainey teaches public administration and organization theory. His research has concentrated on identifying the distinctive features of organizations and management in the public sector, especially as contrasted with business organizations, and on leadership, incentives, performance, and organizational change in government. His book, Understanding and Managing Public Organizations is forthcoming in its fifth edition in 2014. His research has appeared in such journals as Administration & Society, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Public Administration Review, and Social Science Quarterly.
Rainey is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He received the Charles Levine Award for Excellence in Public Administration, conferred jointly by the American Society for Public Administration and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration. In 2009 he received the Dwight Waldo Award for career contributions to scholarship in public administration. In 2011 he received the John Gaus Award from the American Political Science Association and delivered the Gaus lecture at the Annual Meeting of the Association. The Gaus Award honors “the recipient’s lifetime of exemplary scholarship in the joint tradition of political science and public administration.” He has served as chair of the Public Administration Section of the American Political Science Association and chair of the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management.
Rainey has served on governmental commissions at the state and local levels, and in a variety of training, consulting and practical research roles with federal, state, and local agencies. Before entering academics, he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and a VISTA volunteer.