Cheney Refuses Order for Energy Plan Secrets

ByABC News
June 25, 2001, 2:46 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, June 25 -- A government watchdog agency is losing patience with the White House's refusal to detail secret meetings that produced President Bush's national energy policy and is threatening to take steps that could land the tug of war in the courts.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has been pressing Vice President Dick Cheney's office to turn over information on the meetings for more than a month.

Cheney headed up the task force, which drafted Bush's plan to dramatically expand the nation's ability to produce energy. Two Democratic congressman asked the GAO to launch the investigation into Cheney's task force in April, suspecting Bush campaign supporters from the energy industry were getting extraordinary access.

While the White House claims to be cooperating, Cheney through his attorney, David Addington is refusing to release both the names of people who participated and the schedule of meetings. In letters sent May 16 and June 7, Addington has argued the GAO doesn't even have the right to ask for such information.

"It is a constitutional issue the right to petition," said Cheney's spokeswoman, Juleanna Glover Weiss. "People should have the right and freedom to come to the government without having to release their names to the press."

Matter Could End Up in Court

The GAO adamantly disagrees and sent a letter to Cheney's counsel Friday justifying the agency's right to know. If Cheney does not turn over information, the GAO has threatened to send a "demand letter" starting down the road to taking the vice president's office to court.

The law, GAO counsel Anthony Gamboa writes, authorizes the agency to "investigate all matters related to the receipt, disbursement, and use of public money."

"This broad grant of authority contains only one limitation: that the subject of the inquiry involve the use of public money," he continued. "It is beyond dispute that appropriated funds paid for the activities of the [Cheney task force] and thus that [its] activities are a matter related to the use of public money."