Judicial Watch Decries Missing
Bush Energy Documents

By Kathy A. Gambrell
UPI White House Reporter

WASHINGTON (UPI) - The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch said Tuesday that more than 25,000 documents were missing from the thousands released by the Bush administration under a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information on deliberations between Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force and industry executives.
Larry Klayman, attorney for Judicial Watch, told reporters during an news conference the organization would return to court on May 2 and ask a judge to give them the ability to question Bush administration officials about what information was missing from the 11,000 pages of documents it did release and to seek the disclosure of additional documents from the White House.
Papers released under the court order were from the Department of Energy, White House Office of Budget and Management, Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Judicial Watch said about 15,000 documents from the Energy Department were missing and another 10,000 from the EPA were also missing. They said they have received none of the requested documents from the Department of Treasury or the Department of Commerce.
White House officials called the May 2 hearing a "follow-up" hearing and said they were unaware that Judicial Watch planned to seek additional documents.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the released information would only further confirm that the energy plan was a balanced plan and included all viewpoints.
"It assures the American people that it was an open and appropriate process. Most importantly, the National Energy Policy provides a much-needed plan for energy security for America," Abraham said.
The agency said it sought advice from energy, environmental and related organizations and leading experts to incorporate policy recommendations, but that in some instances, some interested stakeholders did not come forward with recommendations.
To ensure a wide diversity of views was considered, the department solicited input and sought the advice from energy, environmental and related organizations and leading experts to incorporate policy recommendations. In some instances, DOE reached out and solicited the views of interested stakeholders that did not come forth with recommendations, Abraham said.
Democrats have alleged that energy companies such as the now-bankrupt Enron Corp. unduly influenced the task force while ignoring environmental groups. Judicial Watch said it appeared that Enron sought favors from both the Clinton and Bush administrations. It suspected that the missing documents were related to the nearly defunct energy trading company.
President George W. Bush had objected to the disclosure of communications between the White House and outside experts, considering it an issue involving the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. Bush said he could not get honest feedback on issues if experts believed their discussions would be made public.
Klayman called the document release important, but said it was only one half of the story. "The public deserves full accountability from the vice president and his energy task force, and Judicial Watch will continue to pursue that accounting through its other litigation under the Federal Advisory Committee Act."
Klayman said the missing pages made the administration appear suspicious and that "Until they release all the documents, the inference is that they have something to hide."
On Feb. 27, a federal judge ordered the Department of Energy to hand over thousands of documents related to meetings between energy industry officials and Cheney's task force. District Judge Gladys Kessler in a memo accompanying her order called the department "woefully tardy" in complying with the Freedom of Information Act request by the Natural Resources Defense Council to examine the documents.
"It's an absolute stonewall. There is nothing in the e-mail [copies] because they've all been redacted. I haven't seen redaction of this nature even in the Clinton administration," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, of the papers released Monday.
Among the documents were appointment book entries from Joseph Kelliher, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Between April 2001 and May 2001, his schedule showed meetings with the National Mining Association, Western Independent Refiners Association, the Natural Petroleum Council and the National Domestic Petroleum Council, among others.
"The train has left the station and I think the destination is full disclosure," said Fitton.
By Tuesday afternoon the NRDC said it had reviewed only half of the papers and was expected to make a statement on its examination during a Wednesday press conference.
Cheney's task force met with Enron Corp., which last fall collapsed and fell into bankruptcy. Kenneth Lay, then chairman of Enron and now under public scrutiny, was the only executive to have a private meeting with Cheney, according to material the vice president has released over the past year.
Klayman said the relationship between Bush and Lay was so close that the president often referred to Lay as "Kenny boy." At the time Enron officials were meeting with the Cheney task force, they were lobbying hard to keep the federal government from placing a cap on energy prices in California.
Gov. Gray Davis, D-Calif., and several Democratic members of Congress have accused Enron of manipulating energy prices that contributed to California's energy crisis last spring.
After one meeting with an Enron official, Cheney announced that he would oppose caps. Several Democrats accused Cheney of succumbing to Enron's influence at an April meeting. But the vice president's office said Cheney and Bush had consistently opposed price caps and his position last spring was not influenced by Enron.
The vice president refused to issue a detailed list of participants in oil industry meetings and what policy positions they pushed for in Bush's energy plan. Cheney denied anything improper took place at meetings. He has said that he and his aides were seeking policy suggestions from across the country.
Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All rights reserved.

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