GAO Sues White House

GAO-LAWSUIT.jpg (8297 bytes)


GAO Sues White House

Seeks Records Of Cheney Meetings With Enron, Other Energy Cos.
Administration Has Refused Request, Citing Privacy Concerns
White House Also Argues That GAO Has Overstepped Its Authority

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2002

AP
(CBS) The investigative arm of Congress filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the White House on Friday to learn the role Enron Corp. and other energy companies played in developing the Bush administration's energy policy.

The General Accounting Office wants to require the administration to identify the executives, including some from now-collapsed Enron, who met with last year with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

"Despite its efforts to reach a reasonable accommodation, GAO has been denied access to information it has a statutory right to obtain," the congressional watchdog agency said in its first suit ever against a president's administration or officials.

The agency said it had no other choice but to seek "declaratory and statutory relief" from the U.S. District Court in Washington.

Mr. Bush has refused to hand over the documents, saying to do so would encroach on his ability to get outside views.


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Click here to read the complaint filed by the GAO.
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The White House said Friday it was ready for a court fight with GAO over the records.

"We have been ready to fight for this important principle since the GAO first indicated they were going to file suit last summer," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "And we look forward to the court reviewing this matter."

The White House also argues that the GAO overstepped its authority by asking the vice president for information on the task force.

The GAO, Congress's investigative unit, says oversight of energy policy and investigation of Enron, a Houston-based energy trading company, are "important institutional prerogatives" of Congress. Enron was the largest single corporate benefactor of Bush's political career.

The dispute began last April but gained political traction once Enron, entered into bankruptcy on Dec. 2.


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Click here for a closer look at the Enron scandal.
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The lawsuit names only Cheney as defendant, but both as vice president and as chairman of the task force.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who supervises government appellate work for the administration, and Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens, head of the Justice Department's civil division, will lead the administration's fight against the GAO suit, the White House said Thursday.

The GAO hired Washington law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood to represent it in the suit.

The lawsuit is the GAO's first against part of the federal government to get documents it wants.

The GAO has forced a showdown with the executive branch in disputes over gathering information just four other times in the past 21 years. In two of those instances, the incumbent administration supplied the information.

In the other two, the administration filed certification letters saying turning over the information could "substantially impair" government operations. That letter keeps the information private.

The White House and the GAO have not tried to negotiated a settlement since Comptroller General David Walker on Jan. 30 said he would go forward with the lawsuit.

There probably won't be a compromise, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

GAO officials say, however, they are not seeking notes, minutes, transcripts or records of meetings from the vice president or the energy task force. Instead, Walker offered in July to scale back the request to only names of people involved and the subject and cost of each meeting, GAO officials said.

The White House said it would challenge GAO's ability to seek the information, saying the law specifies that the agency's purpose is to investigate the expenditure and disbursement of public money.

The White House has provided the agency information relating to direct and indirect costs of the energy task force, the official said.

"We believe that is the extent of the scope of authority of GAO to access information from the vice president's offices," the official said. "If the GAO wants any additional information, they have to look elsewhere."
http://www.wbz.com/now/story/0,1597,330255-364,00.shtml site down

Click Here for document
http://www.apfn.org/enron/cheney_gao.pdf

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Judge John D. Bates, has been assigned to hear the Cheney/GAO case) has now been picked up by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. Don Van Natta's piece in the Times is still, well ... Bates-less.
http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/ezekiel/2002/02/17-week/

 

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