GAO Investigates Cheney - Congress pressures Cheney for names
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Congress pressures Cheney for names
By Scott Lindlaw
June 25, 2001 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional investigators are intensifying pressure on the White House to identify who met privately with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.
The General Accounting Office has sent Cheney's lawyer a 10-page letter asserting a legal right to the lists and advising Cheney that it may make a formal demand for the information, rather than the polite requests it has made in recent weeks.
Comptroller General David M. Walker "is prepared to issue a demand letter ... if we do not receive timely access to the information," the GAO said in a 10-page letter dated Friday from office General Counsel Anthony H. Gamboa to David S. Addington, attorney for the vice president.
The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress, and it has legal authority to federal agency records under the law. A demand letter could begin a legal battle: It would give Cheney's office 20 days to respond, either by turning over the names, or providing a reason why it is not compelled to do so, said Lynn Gibson, a lawyer for the GAO.
If Cheney declined to turn over the records, the GAO would notify Congress and Attorney General John Ashcroft, among others. The GAO would also be authorized to file a civil action in court seeking the record, Gibson said.
She knew of no previous case in which the GAO was forced to go to court to obtain agency records.
The White House team that developed the national energy plan, released last month, met with more than 130 interest groups, from environmentalists and unions, often at odds with Republicans, to major Bush supporters who got private sessions with Cheney.
Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and John Dingell, D-Mich., in April asked the GAO to provide information on who served on the task force, what information was presented to the panel, who presented it and what the task force spent.
The White House has asserted that the GAO does not have the authority to ask for names of participants. However, it agreed that the GAO is entitled to financial records of the task force, and two administration officials said the vice president's office provided 77 pages of financial documents to the GAO last week.
The GAO contends it is entitled to a wider range of records. Federal law "extends GAO's audit authority to all matters related to the use of public money, not just matters related to costs of activities," it argued in its letter to Cheney. "Over the years, GAO has conducted many reviews that involve a wide range of White House programs and activities."
Juleanna Glover Weiss, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on the GAO's assertions, other than to say, "I'm sure the GAO and the vice president's office will be talking about that."
Waxman and Dingell called on Cheney to provide the information they seek.
"The vice president should stop stonewalling and start cooperating with GAO's investigation," Waxman said Monday. "Congress is entitled to know the identity of the special interests that met with the Cheney energy task force."
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