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GAO to Sue White House Over Energy Documents

BY Admin  January 30, 2002 at 5:15 PM EST

The head of the General Accounting Office, or GAO, today said his agency wants to see records of meetings with Enron and other companies’ representatives to determine their input into the White House’s energy plan.

“GAO will take the steps necessary to file suit in U.S. District Court in order to obtain… the information,” Comptroller General David Walker said in a letter sent today to congressional leaders.

The suit marks the first time the watchdog agency has taken a federal entity or official to court.

The GAO wants to explore whether energy giant Enron, which went bankrupt last month amidst a series of accounting scandals, influenced the administration’s energy policy. Enron was a major campaign contributor to President Bush and contributed money to a number of officeholders from both parties.

“We would have strongly preferred to avoid litigation in connection with this matter,” Walker wrote, “but given the request by the four Senate committee chairmen and subcommittee chairmen, our rights to this information and the important principal and precedents involved, GAO will take the steps necessary to file suit in United States District Court.”

The Bush administration has said it should not have to disclose confidential advice on policy and that such a requirement would hamper its ability to hear outside views.

“The president will stand on principle and for the right of presidents and this president to receive candid advice without it being turned into a news release,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Vice President Cheney’s office, however, did confirm today that he had received a three-page memo last April from Ken Lay, former chairman of Enron. The memo urged federal regulators not to impose price caps on electricity in California, one of the elements of the administration’s policy.

An adviser to the vice president said most of Enron’s ideas never made it into the administration’s energy policy, and those that did were not controversial.