Cheney Succeeds in Blocking Inquiry

Nearly a year ago I wrote about the case of Cheney vs. U.S. District Court in which two organizations, The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch, were seeking the release of papers related to Cheney’s energy task force. The organizations believe that those papers, if released, would reveal the extent to which energy industry insiders (think Ken Lay of Enron) played a role in shaping the Bush administrations energy policy. Unfortunately it would appear that any chance of those papers seeing the light of day has now been dashed as the result of an appeals court ruling by Reagan appointee Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Sullivan dismissed the case yesterday, in keeping with a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling that stated,

“There is nothing to indicate that nonfederal employees had a right to vote on committee matters or exercise a veto over committee proposals,” it said.

As if it really matters, after having written the policy, whether they had a right to vote in the meetings.

A March 20, 2001 email from the American Petroleum Institute to an Energy Department official provided a draft Executive Order on energy. Two months later, President Bush issued Executive Order 13211, which is nearly identical in structure and impact to the API draft, and nearly verbatim in a key section.

In March 2001, a Southern Company lobbyist emailed a DOE official suggesting “another issue” for inclusion in the energy plan: so-called reform of the Clean Air Act and related enforcement actions. The suggestion was incorporated into the energy plan, launching the Administration’s controversial effort to weaken the Clean Air Act and retreat from high-profile enforcement actions against the nation’s largest polluters, including the Southern Company.

In a statement published on their website, Judicial Watch takes serious exception to the ruling with the following ominious statement.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “The court’s ruling is without any basis in the text of the open meetings law and is contrary to the intent of the law, which is to allow broad public participation in certain types of meetings between government officials and private lobbyists. Further, it means that, going forward, the public will simply have to take the word of the government that no outsiders are improperly influencing the decisions of their government.

“The American people have a right to know whether lobbyists became de facto members of the Energy Task Force, which helped to write our nation’s energy policies. Today’s decision means that now the public may never know the truth about how these policies were formulated.”

I guess this means we can chalk another one up for the right-to-secrecy party.

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