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December 16, 2002
Volume 80, Number 50
CENEAR 80 50 p. 9
ISSN 0009-2347


GOVERNMENT

ENERGY PLAN SUIT DISMISSED
Congressional investigators fail to learn who advised Cheney task force

JEFF JOHNSON

A federal judge last week dismissed a General Accounting Office (GAO) suit seeking to force the Bush Administration to reveal the identities of individuals with whom Vice President Dick Cheney met when drawing up the Administration’s national energy plan.

U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates ruled that the GAO comptroller general, who heads the investigative arm of Congress, lacks standing to sue the executive branch.
If the ruling stands, the implications could be significant. Each year, GAO conducts several hundred investigations, and most are of executive branch departments that are often reluctant to open their files to GAO investigators.

Although the White House argued that GAO’s request exceeded its constitutional authority, Bates sidestepped that view.

In dismissing the complaint, Bates, a Bush Administration appointee, pointedly noted that Congress had not issued a subpoena for the disputed information and that the comptroller general lacked standing on his own to make such a request.

The suit marked the first time the 81-year-old GAO had turned to litigation to obtain executive branch information.

GAO’s investigation of Cheney’s task force was requested more than a year ago by two Dem-ocratic representatives, joined later by four Democratic senators. All were concerned about undue industry influence on the energy plan. In February 2002, after nine months of negotiations, GAO sued.

Administration spokesmen applauded the decision; GAO is considering an appeal. Other suits by conservative and liberal government watchdog groups seeking the same information are pending before other judges.



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