BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Business  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
E-Commerce
Economy
Market Data
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Friday, 22 February, 2002, 22:30 GMT
White House sued for Enron records
Enron headquarters in Houston
Enron was one of the world's biggest energy firms
The White House has been sued by the investigative arm of the US Congress, which is probing the extent of its contacts with failed energy giant Enron.

It is the first lawsuit in history that has been brought by congressional investigators against the US administration.


We take this step reluctantly - nevertheless, given GAO's responsibility to Congress and the American people, we have no other choice

GAO spokesman
They want to force Vice President Dick Cheney to hand over documents detailing his contacts with the government's energy task force.

The lawsuit aims to find out what part the disgraced Enron Corporation and other energy companies played in developing the Bush administration's energy policy.

The dispute has generated extra interest as separate Congress investigations try to determine why Enron collapsed.

Vice President Cheney headed the task force last spring.

Suspicion

The General Accounting Office filed the suit in the US District Court in Washington.

In a statement it said: "We take this step reluctantly.

"Nevertheless, given GAO's responsibility to Congress and the American people, we have no other choice."

The GAO is acting on a request from Democrats Henry Waxman of California and John Dingell of Michigan.

They suspect private-sector groups heavily influenced the White House energy plan.

Mr Waxman claims he found 17 policies in the May 2001 plan that were either advocated by Enron or benefited the company.

Mr Cheney is himself a former head of an energy services company. The White House denies the task force was overly influenced by energy companies.

It does admit that on six occasions last year the vice president or members of the task force met representatives of Enron, which was a major political contributor to President Bush and other politicians.

Vice President Cheney
Cheney: once headed an energy services company
GAO Comptroller General David Walker wants the names of everyone who met any member of the inter-agency task force and its staff to discuss energy policy.

He also wants lists of the attendees at group meetings, names of the task force staff, the dates of the meetings and the cost of the project.

First time

The Democrats claim environmentalists were mostly excluded from the closed meetings of the task force, when it produced a policy calling for more oil and gas drilling, as well as a revival of nuclear power.

It is the first time since its creation over 80 years ago that the GAO has ever had to sue the government over access to records.

It has been close to suing the ruling executive branch five times.

But each time before now, one of the two sides backed away from a courtroom confrontation.

Former President Richard Nixon, no stranger to defending his presidential stance, shied away from a courtroom fight with the investigators.

And the Clinton administration although ruffled by the GAO's requests did not refuse it permission to delve in its records.

The Bush administration has refused to hand over the documents of the task force - saying to do so could harm efforts to gain candid advice from outside experts.

Vice president Cheney has not specifically claimed executive privilege.

White House spokesmen say he is arguing simply that the GAO has overreached its authority.

Legal scholars split

Since its creation in 1921 the GAO has only once got as far as the federal court in the mid-1970s.

Then it accused the administration of President Gerald Ford of impounding funds appropriated by Congress for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But the lawsuit ended when agreement was reached with the GAO and the department secretary.

Legal scholars are split on who might win this new courtroom battle.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"The Bush White House insists it's blameless"
Michael Weisskopf of Time Magazine
"The longer the White House waits, the more the public will suspect there is something to hide"

Latest news

Background

UK fallout

CLICKABLE FACT FILES

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Business
30 Jan 02 | Business
22 Feb 02 | Business
21 Feb 02 | Business
20 Feb 02 | Business
08 Feb 02 | Business
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes