- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

The White House and Republican lawmakers yesterday accused the General Accounting Office of conducting an overzealous and partisan hunt for the administration's records on its energy task force.
"This is a political business, and that's all it is," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "I think GAO is being pressured here on a partisan political basis, and they are wrong."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the administration cannot accommodate any request from GAO seeking dates of meetings, participants and subjects.
"The GAO continues to ask for information that oversteps their bounds," Mr. Fleischer said. "They continue to ask for subject matter of meetings, which gets into what is said, of course."
GAO Comptroller David Walker said he will decide as early as today whether to file a lawsuit to force the White House to turn over task force documents from meetings that Vice President Richard B. Cheney held with business executives last year.
"The facts are clearly on our side," Mr. Walker said. "They created this problem … by creating this task force and putting the vice president in charge of it."
The investigative arm of Congress is designed to be nonpartisan, but Mr. Armey said the GAO is buckling to pressure from Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California and John D. Dingell of Michigan, who want to know what influence Enron Corp. had in crafting the administration's energy policy.
The firm was a large contributor to the Bush presidential campaign, and its bankruptcy is the subject of several congressional investigations.
Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, said he is "appalled" at GAO's pursuit of the White House documents.
"There is a separation of powers here, and I think it violates that," Mr. Stevens said. "If I was chairman of [the] Governmental Affairs [committee] right now, Mr. Walker would be in front of my committee."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said the GAO is within its rights and is limiting its search to participants and dates of meetings.
"I think the GAO is on very solid ground," the South Dakota Democrat said.
Mr. Armey said House Republican leaders would talk to the GAO, but most Republicans said there was little they could do to stop the agency from filing suit.
Mr. Walker said GAO is not asking for notes or minutes of the meetings.
"If we were asking for some of the things that [White House officials] are asserting, I would have a lot more sympathy for their position," Mr. Walker said. "We're not asking for any of that."
He said both the GAO and the White House are defending "principled positions," and that the courts would likely need to resolve the issue.
"This is not something we want to do," Mr. Walker said.
Several Republicans yesterday drew a distinction between this feud and their demand for documents related to former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's task force on health care.
Mr. Armey said any such comparisons are "patently incorrect."
"Hillary Clinton was not an official of the United States," Mr. Armey said. "There is no law that covers what the president and vice president do. There are two wholly different things."

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