For context on this issue, it is important to bear in mind that Dick Cheney met in secret on multiple occasions in early 2001 to plan the nation's energy policy with the very corporations which stood to profit from it. These very same corporations were heavy Bush Campaign/GOP donors and some, including Enron, have been charged with massive fraud. Cheney steadfastly refuses to reveal the details of those meetings.
Court Allows Suit on Cheney's Energy Panel
The Associated Press
Tuesday 08 July 2003
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court dealt a setback to the Bush administration Tuesday, refusing to stop a lawsuit delving into Vice President Dick Cheney's contacts with the energy industry as his task force was drafting the White House's energy policy.
In a 2-1 ruling, the court rejected the government's arguments that the lawsuit would be an unconstitutional intrusion on the operations of the executive office of the president.
Cheney and administration officials ``have not satisfied the heavy burden'' required for the appeals court to get involved in the case, wrote appeals judge David Tatel. Appeals judge Harry Edwards concurred in a separate opinion. The lawsuit had been proceeding in a lower court.
Drafted in 2001, the administration's energy plan favors opening more public lands to oil and gas drilling and proposes a wide range of other steps supported by industry. It followed months of discussions by task force members and staff with business executives and lobbyists from the energy sector.
The groups that are suing -- Sierra Club and the conservative Judicial Watch -- allege that participants from industry effectively became members of the task force in assembling the White House's energy policy. The administration says the makeup of the task force was limited to government officials.
Bush administration officials have not even produced a summary of documents they want to keep confidential, the appeals court said.
If the administration is so concerned about unwarranted intrusion, it can ``invoke executive or any other privilege'' in an attempt to keep the material out of the public domain, Tatel wrote.
Judge A. Raymond Randolph dissented, declaring that ``for the judiciary to permit this sort of discovery'' into the actions of the vice president and other Cabinet-level appointees ``strikes me as a violation of the separation of powers.''
Federal agencies have disclosed 39,000 pages of internal documents related to the work of Cheney's energy task force, which itself has turned over no materials.
``We look forward to finally gaining access to the inner workings of the energy task force,'' said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.