Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal
Details the myriad illegal, immoral, and unethical activities of Dick Cheney when CEO of Halliburton, his obstruction of justice, and lies to the American public since his appointment as Vice President. For information on an equally corrupt politician, see link to Tom DeLay-Corporate Whore. Be sure to visit our cavernous vault of archives.
Court upholds secrecy for Cheney's energy task force
From Tribune news services
Published May 11, 2005
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. appeals court threw out a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday and ruled that he was free to meet in secret with energy industry lobbyists in 2001 while drawing up the president's energy policy.
The unanimous ruling all but ends a four-year legal battle over Cheney's task force, one that drew in the Supreme Court and Justice Antonin Scalia. It comes as Congress weighs energy legislation that President Bush says will combine efficiency with environmental protection, and that his critics say is a gift to the energy industry.
Previously, the same appeals court ruled 2-1 to uphold a judge's order for Cheney to turn over the names of the oil and gas industry officials who met with his energy policy task force. But the Supreme Court said this was wrong and urged the appellate judges to take another look.
This time the court declared 8-0 that the president and vice president have no duty to tell the public when they seek advice from outsiders.
"In making decisions on personnel and policy, and in formulating legislative proposals, the president must be free to seek confidential information from many sources, both inside the government and outside," said Judge Ray Randolph in an opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Therefore, the Sierra Club and the Judicial Watch had no legal right to know who met with Cheney's energy policy task force in 2001, the court said.
The Sierra Club, a liberal environmental group, and Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, had sued Cheney. They alleged that he violated a 1972 open-government law known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act. It says that when top executive officials seek outside advice, they must do so in public, not behind closed doors.
A federal judge agreed that the lawsuit had some merit and he ordered the vice president to turn over documents that described who participated in the meetings. Cheney refused and appealed the issue to the Supreme Court. In December 2003, the Supreme Court voted to hear Cheney's case. Three weeks later, Scalia flew with Cheney to go duck hunting in Louisiana.
The Sierra Club lawyers asked Scalia to step aside, and he refused. Last June the Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision set aside the appeals court ruling. Scalia joined the majority.
Bush administration lawyers had argued that it was unconstitutional to force the president or the vice president to disclose whom they met with in private. The justices agreed in part, saying the appeals court had failed to consider the "weighty separation-of-powers issue" raised by the lawsuit.
In Tuesday's opinion, the appeals court stopped short of saying it was unconstitutional to force Cheney to disclose the participants in his task force meetings. Instead, its opinion reinterpreted the 1972 open-government law to say it did not apply to this case.
The opinion cited the declarations of two senior administration officials as key to their decision. Outsiders may have met with Cheney's task force but they were not truly members of it, Randolph said. All the true members of the task force were Bush administration officials, and therefore the National Energy Policy Task Force was not governed by the open-disclosure rules of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, he said.
"The outsider might make an important presentation, he might be persuasive, the information he provides might affect the committee's judgment. But having neither a vote nor a veto over the advice the committee renders to the president, he is no more a member of the committee than the aides who accompany congressmen or Cabinet offices to committee meetings," Randolph wrote.
The decision by the full court is unusual for two reasons, according to law professors and attorneys involved in the case.
First, it is unanimous, an atypical result for a court whose members hold a wide spectrum of views on government regulation and executive powers. Second, it accepts largely as fact the assertions of two senior administration officials, without allowing the opposing side to challenge or question them.
During the Clinton administration, the same appeals court had given the 1972 law a broader scope and said it applied to the health policy task force led by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then, the appeals court said outside participants who met within a White House advisory group were "de facto members" and therefore the public had a right to know about the meetings.
The Freedom of Information Act allows the public to learn about how decisions are made by federal agencies but it does not apply to the White House.
Decision being studied
David Bookbinder, the senior attorney for the Sierra Club, said the issues raised in the lawsuit were "more relevant today than ever," given the pending energy bill. Bookbinder said he would study Tuesday's decision in the hope of finding grounds to get the appeals court to reconsider, or perhaps to persuade the Supreme Court to review the case again.