Veep Freeze


“Hey Dick Cheney, Disclose the Documents!” shouts a Web site designed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to expose the vice president’s efforts to hide details about what the DCCC calls his “secret energy task force.” The site accuses former oilman Cheney of duplicity in his refusal to name names of the industry representatives, believed to be oil lobbyists and campaign contributors, who helped craft the president’s controversial energy plan now before Congress. “What are you trying to hide, Dick Cheney? The public wants to know who really wrote your energy plan, the site challenges.”

The DCCC, headed by Representative Nita Lowey of New York, posted the site three months after Cheney first refused to release the names to the non-partisan Government Accounting Office—the same congressional investigative arm that Republicans used to hound then President Clinton. GOP Representative Dan Burton of Indiana, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, filed more than 1000 subpoenas against Clinton for public records. “The White House is behaving exactly the way they do when they know they’ve done something wrong and they’ve been caught with their hand in the cookie jar,” Burton said in a May 3, 2000, hearing over records the Clinton administration refused to produce.

Burton has no interest in the Bush-Cheney cookie jar, and Republican leadership says the DCCC’s request is simply a Democratic ploy. “It’s silly politics,” Majority Whip and fellow Texan Tom Delay told Roll Call. “Are we all going to have to report everybody we meet with privately? It just doesn’t make sense.” It did make sense, though, when Republicans successfully unleashed the GAO hounds on First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health-care task force in 1993. (DeLay weakly argued that the investigation of Hillary was justified because at the time she was a private individual, not a public official.)

DCCC spokeswoman Stacy Kerr expressed surprise at Delay’s characterization. “It’s hardly silly politics to think the American people should have information on who the Republican White House met with in formulating their energy plan when Americans are the ones paying the high costs of their energy policies,” she said.

Kerr said the DCCC site’s purpose is to raise awareness and ultimately to pressure congressional Republicans to support the GAO’s effort (which came at the request of Democrats) to keep the White House honest. On July 18 the GAO gave Cheney 20 days to cough up the info. A responding letter from an obstinate vice president’s counsel on August 4 claimed that the GAO was exceeding its authority by asking for the details. Kerr said Americans will draw their own conclusions about the “stonewalling”: “If they have nothing to hide, I would assume they would comply.”

DCCC is including three e-postcards on the site where visitors can complain directly to the vice president about his reticence. “Dear Vice President Cheney, I want to know what kind of secret deals are being made with big campaign contributors,” one card requests. In another e-card, you can needle the veep about his wasteful energy practices at home: “Pay Your Electric Bill, Dick Cheney!” The DCCC also suggests how to deal with rising energy costs: “Send Your Bills to the Navy.”