Cheney Refuses To Turn
Over Energy Papers To GAO


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite the threat of an unprecedented lawsuit, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said on Sunday he would not give congressional investigators internal documents related to development of the administration's energy plan, including additional information on Enron Corp. .
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has been seeking more information about contacts between industry and the Bush administration's energy task force, headed by Cheney.
On the "Fox News Sunday" program, Cheney said the long-standing debate with the GAO was being revived by Democrats hoping to capitalize on the collapse of energy giant Enron.
"Now what's happened is we've come back around, as a result of the Enron corporate collapse, some of the Democrats on the Hill are trying to re-energize this and try to turn it into some kind of political debate," Cheney said.
"The fact is, Enron didn't get any special deals," he added on the ABC "This Week" program.
Cheney said the dispute involved investigators' requests, at the urging of Democrats, for "a listing of everybody I meet with, of everything that was discussed, any advice that was received, notes and minutes of those meetings."
"It would make it virtually impossible for me to have confidential conversations with anybody ... You just cannot accept that proposition without putting a chill over the ability of the president and vice president to receive unvarnished advice.
"The net result of that is to weaken the presidency and the vice presidency," he added on ABC.
Comptroller General David Walker, head of the GAO, said he would decide this week whether to file suit to force the White House to turn over the information, which he said would be the first such action against a federal agency.
Walker says Congress and the GAO have a right to information on the task force because it was funded with taxpayers' money.
But Cheney said the GAO did not have the authority to demand such information.
"Their jurisdiction extends to agencies created by statute. That's not me," he told the Fox program. "I'm a constitutional officer. And the authority of the GAO does not extend in that case to my office."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Cheney's decision was "unfortunate."
"It may be a matter of principle, but it's also a matter of law," the South Dakota Democrat told CBS' "Face the Nation."
"If this has to be resolved in the courts, I think that that may be the only recourse. The General Accounting Office is on solid ground in demanding that these records be turned over. The American people have a right to know what the facts are."
The energy plan announced in May called for more oil and gas drilling and a revived nuclear power program. It contained many provisions sought by Enron.
The White House has revealed that Cheney or the energy task force staff met six times last year with Enron representatives but has refused to provide other details on how the administration's policy was crafted.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi told CBS, "I can assure you they are not hiding anything."
Houston-based Enron, once ranked No. 7 on the Fortune 500 big businesses list, filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history on Dec. 2, hammering investors, eliminating thousands of jobs and raising questions about its ties to President Bush.
Walker began his pursuit of the energy task force last spring at the request of Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, both Democrats.
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