Case closed on Cheney's energy secrecy

Sierra Club's Carl Pope on Tuesday's federal court ruling: "Now the American people will never learn how the [Bush administration's] polluting energy policy was crafted."

Published May 11, 2005 8:11PM (EDT)

President Bush and Vice President Cheney may work for the public, but that doesn't mean that they have to tell the public with whom they consult to make decisions.

That was the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia yesterday, which found that Cheney could keep private the names of the oil lobbyists that he met with when devising the administration's energy policy. The ruling was a loss for both the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch (a conservative watchdog group), which had jointly sued, demanding to know who met with Cheney's energy policy task force in 2001.

"In making decisions on personnel and policy, and in formulating legislative proposals, the president must be free to seek confidential information from many sources, both inside the government and outside," said Judge Ray Randolph -- who was appointed by the first President Bush -- in an opinion for the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch argued that when seeking outside advice the Vice President was obligated, under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, to disclose to the public with whom they were talking. The court, in an 8-0 decision, did not agree.

But the same court did buy that argument in a case involving Hillary Clinton, when her husband held the nation's top office.

"During the Clinton administration," reports the L.A. Times, "the same appeals court had given the 1972 law a broader scope and said it applied to the health policy task force led by then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then, the appeals court said outside participants who met within a White House advisory group were 'de facto members' of the group, and therefore, the public had a right to know about the meetings."

Apparently, that logic doesn't apply now. Of Tuesday's decision in favor of the most Big Energy-friendly White House in modern memory, Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said, "Now the American people will never learn how the polluting energy policy that President Bush continues to push was crafted."

That won't make it any less difficult to choke down.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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