Cheney Off the Hook On Closed-Door Energy Discussions

A federal appeals court has ruled unanimously that Vice President Dick Cheney need not make public records and notes from private meetings with energy industry officials in 2001 designed to help formulate White House energy policy. The ruling is the latest round in a lawsuit filed four years ago by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club hoping to shed some light on how much influence energy industry executives—some of whom are now convicted felons due to their unethical business dealings—had on the development of White House energy policy.

“The President must be free to seek confidential information from many sources, both inside the government and outside,” wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In support of their decision, the judges cited previous U.S. Supreme Court cases emphasizing the importance of protecting the separation of powers for the executive branch.

But the Sierra Club views it a bit differently. “As a policy matter, we see that the Bush administration has succeeded in its efforts to keep secret how industry crafted the administration’s energy policy,” says David Bookbinder, lead attorney for the Sierra Club. “As a legal matter, it’s a defeat for efforts to have open government and for the public to know how their elected officials are conducting business.”