Lawmakers Upset Over Cheney Response to GAO Probe

Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) are up in arms over the response of Vice-President Cheney's office to a recent request by the lawmakers asking the General Accounting Office (GAO) to undertake an investigation of the White House energy task force in light of the secrecy that has surrounded the group's meetings and participants.

"We are dismayed by your lack of full cooperation with GAO," Waxman and Dingell wrote in a letter sent last week to David S. Addington, counsel to Cheney. Waxman and Dingell last month asked the GAO to investigate whether the move to close the energy task force meetings to the public is a violation of the sunshine laws and the "letter and spirit" of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (see NGI, April 23) and the GAO subsequently agreed to probe the task force.

The lawmakers cite a portion of a letter sent by Addington to the GAO as evidence of noncooperation on the part of Cheney's office. According to Waxman and Dingell, Addington's letter states, in part, "It appears that the GAO may intend to intrude into the heart of executive deliberations, including deliberations among the President, the Vice President, members of the President's Cabinet, and the President's immediate assistants, which the law protects to ensure the candor in executive deliberations necessary to effective government."

But Waxman and Dingell said that they were unaware of any such law that is applicable to Congressional investigations. The lawmakers raised the question of whether Addington's letter was referring to executive privilege. "As you are aware, in some limited circumstances involving direct communications with the President, the President has invoked Executive Privilege," Waxman and Dingell noted. "Since by precedent, this privilege can only be invoked by the President himself, we do not interpret your letter as invoking Executive Privilege," the lawmakers added. "If that is your purpose, we wish to receive such clarification from the President directly," Waxman and Dingell wrote.

"It is a shame that the Vice President's Energy Task Force has begun deliberations on the National Energy Policy with such a determined attitude of secrecy and stonewalling," the letter goes on to state. "We in Congress, and the public at large, have the right to know how the energy policy was developed, including what special interests were consulted, what influence they had, and how competing interests were reconciled," Waxman and Dingell wrote. The lawmakers called on Addington to immediately provide full cooperation with the GAO investigation.

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