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Cheney won't turn over energy task force records

Cheney
Cheney's spokeswoman called the GAO request a "fishing expedition" Thursday.  


By Major Garrett
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney refused a General Accounting Office demand for records of the task force that laid the groundwork for President Bush's national energy policy, his spokeswoman said Thursday.

"We are acting 100 percent within the law, and the GAO does not have the authority to make this request," said Cheney spokeswoman Juleanna Glover-Weiss. "It's not appropriate to set a new precedent as to what the GAO can request from a president."

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, told Cheney on Wednesday it wanted "full and complete access to records relating to the development of the administration's national energy policy."

It was the first time the GAO had ever sent a demand letter to a vice president or president, according to the two Democratic lawmakers who asked for the probe, Reps. John Dingell of Michigan and Henry Waxman of California.

Weiss called the request "a fishing expedition" that would "chill the right to petition the government, a constitutional right."

GAO officials want to know the names of people who met with the task force during nine different meetings; the names of the six professional staff assigned to the vice president's office; information about staff meetings with outside individuals consulted on the energy policy.

The agency also wants records of Cheney's meetings with outside individuals about the energy policy and all records on the cost of developing the national energy policy.

The task force hammered out the energy proposal Bush outlined in May. The plan has been criticized for tilting toward fossil fuel production, including a push to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Bush has tried to emphasize conservation efforts in an attempt to blunt criticism that his plan would benefit oil companies that made large financial contributions to the Republican Party.

Waxman and Dingell want to know whether the task force met with major Bush campaign contributors. One Bush friend and large contributor -- Enron CEO Kenneth Lay -- was among those the task force consulted. Waxman and Dingell allege other major GOP contributors were consulted.

Glover-Weiss said the task force consulted with energy executives, environmental groups, labor unions, consumer groups and a wide array of others as it developed the energy policy driving legislation now moving through Congress.

"This is a case of misplaced priorities, a bunch of static about the process, because there are no allegations of wrongdoing," Glover-Weiss said. "We strongly believe the members of Congress need to think carefully about what they're doing rather than continue with this silliness."






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