One Cheney suit dropped, another continues

One Cheney suit dropped, another continues

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

A federal judge last Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by the General Accounting Office against Vice-President Dick Cheney, claiming the GAO had no standing to conduct such a suit.

The judge’s ruling thus rebuffed congressional efforts to get more information on Cheney’s energy task force and to compel him to disclose who served on the group and what they did.

U.S. District Judge John Bates said the suit filed by Comptroller General David Walker was an unprecedented act and raised grave issues of separation-of-powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

“No court has ever before granted what the comptroller general seeks,” said Bates, who was appointed by President Bush. He said Walker “does not have the personal, concrete and particularized injury required” by the Constitution and that “his complaint must be dismissed.”

The ruling will have no effect on another lawsuit brought against Cheney by Judicial Watch, a public interest law firm in Washington. That suit survived a motion to dismiss it and has moved into the pre-trial discovery phase.

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan already has ruled that Vice-President Cheney must produce the documents requested by the suit, thereby disclosing identities of task force members, how the group operated, and Cheney’s role in it. The judge ruled Cheney must comply with the law “like everyone has to do.” Cheney has appealed the ruling.

Judicial Watch filed the suit last year after Cheney rebuffed its requests for information on the task force. Some months later, the law firm was joined in the action by the Sierra Club.

The GAO was proceeding under its inherent powers as an investigative arm of Congress, but that case has been dropped before discovery began. Judicial Watch already has gotten thousands of documents under the discovery process and has won nearly every round of the legal battle so far. The watchdog group is confident the desired information will be obtained.

Cheney’s energy plan calls for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory restrictions on building nuclear power plants. Among the plan’s proposals are drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge and perhaps reviving nuclear fuel reprocessing, an idea that was dropped in the 1970s as a nuclear proliferation concern.

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