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 Judge Orders WH to Keep Records
 Senate Panel Slams SEC Chief
 Energy Chief Urged to Resign--Enron
 Greenspan Repents--Deficit Reduction First!
 Bush, Clinton and Releasing Papers
 Bush wants $80 Billion Stimulus Pkg.
 Bush Boosts Defense by $120 Billion.
 Justice Tells WH, Don't Shred Docs.
 Court Orders Cheney to Explain
 Decision of the Comptroller General
Judge Orders White House to Keep Energy Records
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday directed the White House to preserve records from meetings of its energy task force, which critics suspect was heavily influenced by Enron Corp. and other major energy companies.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, overseeing a public interest law firm's lawsuit seeking task force details, also admonished government lawyers for not doing enough to back their arguments that specifics of the meetings be kept secret.

"I get the feeling the government's underestimating the seriousness and the importance of this case," Sullivan said during a conference with lawyers from both sides.

The White House task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney produced a policy issued last May that called for more oil and gas drilling and a revived nuclear power program.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is threatening to file a similar suit seeking records of the task force.

The case before Sullivan was brought by Judicial Watch, a group widely described as conservative after it spent years in court dogging the administration of former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Judicial Watch said Sullivan ordered the preservation of records relating to the task force as part of its lawsuit.

In addition, Sullivan gave the U.S. Justice Department another two weeks to flesh out its arguments and file another legal brief in the suit. He scheduled arguments in the case for April 9.

Interest in activities of the energy task force has been heightened by the collapse of Enron late last year and speculation about favors the company may have sought in an effort to save itself.

The White House has acknowledged that Cheney or members of the task force met six times last year with Enron representatives.

The Judicial Watch lawsuit alleges that since outsiders had access to the task force, it falls under U.S. law governing federal advisory committees and therefore must publicly disclose its activities.

Government lawyers counter that the task force does not fall under the law because it was composed only of federal employees. They say releasing details of task force meetings last year would put a chill on future presidential deliberation.

They also said the case should be dismissed because the only defendant named in the case, the task force itself, has been dissolved.

Judicial Watch Chairman Larry Klayman said the group will amend its lawsuit by naming Cheney, other members of the energy task force and possibly President Bush.

As part of its own criminal probe of Enron's collapse, the Justice Department on Feb. 1 asked the White House to hold onto documents dealing with Enron. The White House said it would comply with the request, which covered all written notes, letters and computer records related to Enron's financial condition and business interests since Jan. 1, 1999.


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Senate Panel Head Slams SEC Chief on Enron Response
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of a key Senate panel said he would turn "a suspicious eye" on any response from America's top markets cop to the Enron Corp. scandal, on the eve of a controversial appearance before Congress by the bankrupt company's former chairman.

At the same time, a key House of Representatives panel took the lead in Congress' search for answers to Enron by floating the first comprehensive post-Enron legislative package.

Zeroing in on old business ties between Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt and Enron's former auditor Andersen, Sen. Ernest Hollings, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told Reuters on Monday he was unhappy with Pitt's handling of Enron and its fallout.

"I'm not satisfied," said the South Carolina Democrat, who has charged the Republican Bush administration with running a "cash and carry government" for former energy trader Enron.

"Whatever he (Pitt) would recommend, I'd look at with a jaundiced eye," Hollings said in an interview, sharpening criticisms of Pitt simmering below the surface of the Enron controversy as he tries to formulate a policy response.

Pitt, reacting to the Enron affair, made a proposal of his own on overseeing the accounting profession, which he once represented as a private attorney. Corporate auditors such as Big Five firm Andersen -- once Pitt's client as well as Enron's auditor -- have come under fire for bungled audits.

On Hollings' barbs, SEC spokeswoman Christi Harlan said, "Chairman Pitt has said all along that he now represents the best client in the world and that's the investing public."

AN OVERSIGHT BOARD WITH TEETH

Overshadowing Pitt's modest proposal, the House Financial Services Committee on Monday floated a bill to set up an accounting oversight board with a two-thirds majority of non-accountants and a 60-percent boost to the SEC's budget.

A Republican committee source provided Reuters with a discussion draft of the legislation calling for a body directly answerable to the SEC with teeth enabling it to sanction not only accountants, but also companies that hire them.

Sweeping together several ideas making the rounds in Congress for weeks, the bill also would require faster disclosure of financial data and insider trading, as well as some limits on accounting firms doing audit and non-audit work for the same company. It would set the SEC's fiscal 2003 budget at $700 million, up from $438 million in fiscal 2002.

The Senate Commerce Committee, chaired by Hollings, was expecting former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay -- who has dodged previous congressional invitations -- to appear before it under subpoena on Tuesday morning, but to refuse to testify under his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"He'll come in and he'll have to be sworn. He'll make his statement that he's going to take the Fifth. That will be it," said Hollings, one of dozens of members of Congress who got campaign donations from Enron but is now investigating it.

Enron has preoccupied Congress since the company filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history on Dec. 2, devastating investors, destroying thousands of jobs and prompting investigations by nine congressional committees.

Seeking to bring some order to lawmakers' inquiries, Hollings called again for a select committee or a special prosecutor, but conceded, "It's not a popular idea."

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST?

In addition to expressing concerns about Pitt, Hollings suggested the Justice Department's criminal probe of Enron, still months from conclusion, could be open to question.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who heads Justice, has recused himself from its inquiry because he took campaign contributions from Enron. He has named Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to head the probe. Thompson's former law firm once represented Enron. Thompson has refused to step aside.

Pointing to Thompson's connections, Hollings said, "If that isn't a taint of a conflict, what's a taint of a conflict?"

A Justice Department spokesman said the department saw no need for a special counsel. "There is no conflict of interest," said spokesman Byron Sierra. He said the department's ethics lawyers had examined the circumstances.

Hollings said Enron represented a massive political scandal with deep roots across the Bush administration, but he complained the president's wartime popularity has restrained others from asking tough questions about the affair.

"Everybody says there's a halo over there (at the White House). I don't see any halo," said the senator.

In what could shape up as an historic clash between Congress and the president, the General Accounting Office has threatened to sue in court for access to records of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force's Enron dealings.

Hollings said the GAO has the authority and responsibility to ask for the task force documents. He said he was confident a court would rule in favor of Congress' investigative arm.


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Energy Agency Chief Urged to Quit Over Enron
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Enron Corp.'s close ties with the Bush administration have prompted a call for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Pat Wood to resign because of the alleged influence the failed energy trading company had over his appointment.

Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell said on Saturday he had urged Wood to quit as the commission begins an investigation into whether Enron manipulated energy markets last year to raise electricity prices under long-term power supply contracts with California.

"Sadly, the integrity of the commission has been irreversibly compromised due to the circumstances surrounding your appointment and the FERC's intimate relationship with Enron, and as such I urge you to resign as chairman," the New Jersey lawmaker said in a letter to Wood on Friday.

A spokesman for the energy commission declined to comment.

The FERC, which regulates interstate electricity and natural gas rates, has made 139 regulatory decisions concerning Enron since 1995 -- 18 of those since President Bush took office in January 2001.

Pascrell said congressional hearings into Enron, as well as an investigation by the General Accounting Office, had shed light on the integral role the bankrupt energy giant had in creating the current FERC panel of commissioners.

Former Enron Chief Executive Kenneth Lay had sent the White House a list of potential FERC nominees that included Wood and Nora Brownell, who was also subsequently appointed to the agency, Pascrell said.

"In light of the influence that Kenneth Lay ... had over both your appointment to the FERC and your subsequent chairmanship of the commission, it is apparent that your ability to fairly and neutrally oversee the country's energy policies has been irrevocably comprised," Pascrell said in the letter to Wood.

"You were Kenneth Lay's choice to replace Curtis Hebert, who had recently been appointed (FERC) chairman by President Bush but later refused to promote Enron Corporation's agenda through the FERC."

Hebert resigned shortly after Wood joined the commission, and Wood took over as chairman.

Ironically, Hebert opposed caps on skyrocketing wholesale electricity prices in California last year -- a position that Enron supported -- while Wood and Brownell went against the company and voted for the FERC to curb rising power costs in western states.

"It is clear that the relationship between the FERC and Enron is unacceptably intertwined to serve the public's interest," Pascrell said.

Enron's interest in Wood goes back to December 1994, when Lay wrote Bush, then Texas governor-elect, and recommended Wood be appointed to the Texas Public Utility Commission. Lay wrote Bush that Wood was "best qualified" to provide "new thinking" at the utility commission that was needed to open the state's energy market to competition, a policy change Enron sought to bring in more business. Three weeks after he was sworn in as governor, Bush named Wood in February 1995 to the Texas utility commission, which went on to deregulate the state's energy market.

Commentary:


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Fed Chairman Says Tax Cuts Should Follow Debt Reduction
nytimes.com

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 — A year after giving his blessing to President Bush's tax cut, Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, urged Congress today to link any further tax reductions or spending increases to progress in paying down the national debt.

Appearing before the Senate Budget Committee, Mr. Greenspan provided few specifics about how such a plan would work, and he stopped short of saying his idea should be applied to the $1.3 trillion tax cut that Mr. Bush signed into law last June.

But the Fed chairman, who has exerted considerable influence on budget and tax policy in recent years, suggested that allowing the government's fiscal condition to continue deteriorating could undermine the economic recovery that appears to be getting under way, and in the long run could leave the nation ill- prepared to pay Social Security and Medicare benefits to an aging population.

Democrats seized on the idea as a possible way to slow the implementation of the tax cut, which takes effect gradually over the next eight years, without subjecting themselves to Republican attacks that they would be raising taxes.

The basic idea as laid out by Mr. Greenspan — who made a similar proposal that went nowhere last year — would be to allow tax cuts and spending increases to take place only if the government hit predetermined targets for reducing the national debt held by the public, which stands at $3.3 trillion. The two parties pledged as recently as last year to pay off nearly all the debt within this decade, but the disappearance of the budget surplus in recent months appears to have put that goal out of reach.

"As you craft a budget strategy for coming years, you might again want to consider provisions that, in some way, would limit tax and spending initiatives if specified targets for the budget surplus and federal debt were not satisfied," Mr. Greenspan said.

Some Republicans dismissed the idea. Senator Christopher S. Bond, Republican of Missouri, said it smacked of "Hooverism" — raising taxes whenever the economy got weak just to balance the budget, deepening any downturn by taking money out of the economy rather than putting more in.

But a few moderate Republicans, including Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, support the idea. And while some Democrats are wary of any measure that would block spending increases along with tax cuts, the budget committee's Democratic chairman, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, concluded the hearing by embracing Mr. Greenspan's approach and saying he would "try to find a way to get it enacted into law."

The sparring over the issue suggested that the effects of the tax cut on the budget would continue to be a political issue throughout this year, and perhaps for years to come. Along with the recession and added spending related to the war on terrorism, it has substantially reduced the pot of money available for nearly every other issue, including paying off the national debt, shoring up Social Security and providing more federal aid to schools.

Democrats continue to make the case that the tax cut's benefits will go overwhelmingly to relatively few affluent people, especially through the provision that repeals the estate tax. But although a few liberals, most notably Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, have called for repealing parts of the tax cut, most Democrats say such a goal is unrealistic if not economically unwise and politically suicidal this year.

"Today's political environment does not allow at this time for repeal or delay of the tax cuts we enacted last year," said Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia.

n a speech to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, the House minority leader, Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, also said repeal of the tax cuts was not politically realistic.

In what he had billed as a major economic policy address, Mr. Gephardt called for a push to develop technology that would allow the nation to supply all its own energy; a tax credit for college tuition and a program to encourage new teachers; a new system to make pensions safer and more easily moved from employer to employer, while allowing people as young as 55 to buy into the Medicare system; and greater government investment in new technologies.

Mr. Greenspan appeared on Capitol Hill as the Senate continued to debate a proposed economic recovery package without making any progress in resolving deep partisan differences over what the package should contain.

Asked whether the economy still needed a quick jolt from increased spending or tax cuts, Mr. Greenspan said he was conflicted about the pros and cons. He said that the economy would recover without a stimulus bill, but that it might need help later in the year if the recovery proves to be lackluster.

Asked today whether the tax cut had helped the economy last year, Mr. Greenspan said it had. But he also said the deterioration of the budget surplus — in part because of the tax cut — had put upward pressure on long-term interest rates, putting a brake on economic growth.

Mr. Greenspan continued to walk a fine line between defending his endorsement of a big tax cut last year and sticking by his long-held position that fiscal responsibility and debt reduction are essential to the nation's long-term economic health.

But he acknowledged that what he thought last year was a major threat — that the debt would be paid down too rapidly — had evaporated, and that his focus now had returned to paying off the debt.

Commentary:
There are two ways to look at this story. First, Greenspan admits he was wrong about tax cuts, the economy, surpluses and the debt or Greenspan knew exactly what he was doing.

Greenspan increased interest rates in 93 and 94 so the democrats would be blamed for higher interest rates. Then he raised them again from 99-00 so the economy would slow enough to get Bush into office and into a recession so the tax cut would better sell.

Greenspan is fully aware there's no mood in congress to repeal his tax cut so he now sets up the blame game...don't blame him for the debt...blame congress. Bush--always playing the puppet, will do the same. But we know better.


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Bush Policy on Releasing Records Differs in Case of Clinton Ones
NYTimes.com/Business

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 — President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have said their refusal to give Congress information about the administration's contacts with energy industry executives was based on the executive branch's fundamental right to receive "unvarnished" advice from people outside the government.

But two months ago, the Bush administration authorized the release to Congress of thousands of e-mail communications by senior White House officials in the Clinton administration, including messages sent by outside advisers and senior aides to Vice President Al Gore.

With the approval of the Bush administration, the National Archives and Record Administration turned over to the House Committee on Government Reform 2,000 pages of Clinton White House e-mail messages. The committee is headed by Representative Dan Burton, the Indiana Republican who requested the records in September.

The Bush administration also allowed the release to Congress of White House notes of conversations on some of President Bill Clinton's 11th-hour pardon decisions.

The electronic messages, dating to 1995, deal with a wide variety of campaign finance issues. They include e-mail messages to Mr. Gore from senior aides, including his general counsel and chief of staff. They also include e-mail from people outside the government to senior White House officials, including Mr. Gore. Lawyers for Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore did not raise objections to their release.

Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, however, said the White House policy on confidentiality of executive branch records was inconsistent.

"When the administration claims it is acting out of principle, it needs to be consistent," Mr. Waxman said. "But here there's no consistency."

The release of those messages on Nov. 28 and Dec. 24 was not the first time last year that the Bush administration raised no objections to the release to Congress of documents or e-mail messages from the Clinton administration.

On five previous occasions, the archives released records of contacts with outside parties seeking to influence Mr. Clinton's last-minute pardon decisions, including a transcript of a conversation between Mr. Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel relating to the pardon application of the billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Again, the Bush administration raised no objections.

In a letter to the committee, the archives said the Bush administration had waived any state-secret privilege to allow the notes of the conversations with Mr. Barak to be released.

On Nov. 1 last year, Mr. Bush signed an executive order that permitted a sitting president to grant or block any request for a previous administration's documents. Later that month, he permitted the Clinton administration e-mail messages to be turned over to Congress.

Anne Womack, a White House spokeswoman, said today that the Clinton administration documents were released to Congress because Mr. Clinton had not objected to their release.

Lie! Read the section in bold in this article.

"Former administration officials had an opportunity to review the requested documents," Ms. Womack said. "As our presidential records executive order states, we will generally defer to the wishes of the past president. And therefore they were released as requested."

Ms. Womack said it was unfair to compare the release of the Clinton administration documents and the Bush administration's stance on the energy task force records.

"These are totally different situations," she said. "These Clinton documents were requested as part of a Congressional subpoena, and this is a situation where we believe the G.A.O. has overstepped its authority."

Earlier this month, Mr. Bush agreed to release 8,000 pages of documents from the Reagan administration, but blocked the release of about 60,000 other Reagan-era documents, citing national security concerns. There was no objection to the documents' release by former Reagan administration officials.

Citing National Security...yeah right! Who's he protecting? His father?

"I think obviously they have a double standard," said John D. Podesta, who served as White House chief of staff in Mr. Clinton's second term. "The principle they seem to be applying is if it's in our interests to hide it, we're going to hide it. And if it's in our interests to get it out, we're going to get it out."

A Bush administration official said that the White House was continuing to review the Reagan administration documents, and that the vast majority were expected to be released soon.

The release of the Clinton White House documents raises legal and political questions for the Bush White House, which has repeatedly argued that an important principle is at stake in its refusal to turn over the energy task force documents. It also could emerge as an issue in the lawsuit to be filed by the General Accounting Office against Mr. Cheney in an effort to get access to documents related to the administration's energy task force.

On Monday, Mr. Bush said: "We're not going to let the ability for us to discuss matters between ourselves to become eroded. It's not only important for us, for this administration, it's an important principle for future administrations."

The documents that the Bush administration refuses to turn over are lists of executives who met with Mr. Cheney's energy task force. The accounting office also seeks the subjects of the discussions.

The information from the Clinton administration includes internal discussions between Mr. Gore and his staff members, as well as a National Security Council transcript of a conversation Mr. Clinton had with Mr. Barak.

Associates of Mr. Clinton said it was the first time in history that a transcript of a president's conversation with a head of state was released. An associate said today that Mr. Clinton was not consulted about releasing the Barak conversation.

"That was not our decision to make," the associate said.

Julia Payne, a spokeswoman for Mr. Clinton, declined to discuss the Barak conversation. But she said Mr. Clinton has not objected to the release of documents because he "believes that a government's legitimacy is based on the trust of its people, and when decisions are made on behalf of the American people, citizens eventually have to be able to see the process of how those decisions came to be."

Commentary:
Let's see if we get this right. The decision making process must be secret if Cheney, Bush Jr., Bush Sr., or Reagan do it, but isn't important with President Clinton records. On issues of STATE, Bush should not be trusted.


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O'Neill: Stimulus Will Help Economy Grow
Reuters.com

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said on Friday he hopes the Bush administration can get Congress to pass a stimulus package, which he said would help the economy grow.

"I am very hopeful that we are going to be able to put stimulus in place. We will give momentum to the rate of improvement in our economy and the level of improvement that we finally achieve," O'Neill said in an interview from the World Economic Forum on CNBC.

He said if an economic stimulus package of tax cuts and spending worth $70 billion to $80 billion could be passed within the next 10 days to two weeks, that would be a great achievement.

The economy grew by 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter, suggesting it is starting to emerge from a recession that began in March last year. Most analysts expect economic growth to pick up its pace by the second half of this year. Congress so far has failed to agree to an economic stimulus package proposed by the Bush administration.

"I think there is no denying that if we put another $70 billion or $80 billion of spending and tax reduction into our economy, it will avoid additional job losses and add additional job opportunities," O'Neill said.

"We shouldn't take a chance that the recovery is going to be slower than we want or not as complete as we want," he added.

"Certainly if these provisions are put in place, and I believe they will be, I don't think they're very controversial," O'Neill said of pension reforms proposed on Friday by President Bush in the wake of the collapse of energy trading giant Enron Corp.

President Bush called for barring corporate executives from selling company stock during "blackout" periods like the one that kept Enron workers from bailing out while the company's shares plunged late last year. Enron in December spiraled into the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

The administration's plan would allow workers to sell company-contributed stock and diversify into other investment options after three years of participation in their company's plan.

The reforms would "enable individuals to have much stronger and complete control over their own nest eggs, and the president believes that's a really important principal to follow through on and I think we'll get these things done very fast with change in the law," O'Neill said.

"What's good for the general is good for the private," O'Neill said, in a similar statement to one used by Bush statement earlier Friday that used naval references.

"The president wants us to change the law so that the interest of the general and the private are never separated," O'Neill said.

Commentary:
When President Clinton asked for a small stimulus package in 1993, republicans howled about the deficit. With all this new spending for tax cuts, defense and a stimulus package, we can assume the a balanced budget is a thing of the past.

There will always be a reason to spend money we don't have and republicans seem to be really good at it.


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Bush Pushes for $120 Billion Defense Budget Boost

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the biggest U.S. military buildup in two decades, President Bush will press Congress on Monday to raise defense spending by $120 billion over the next five years to $451 billion by 2007, senior U.S. officials said on Saturday.

Proposed increases over the current $331 billion Pentagon budget would begin with a jump to $379 billion in the coming 2003 financial year beginning next Oct. 1 and steadily rise in the following four years, the officials told Reuters.

Next year's defense increase would be part of Bush's proposed $2.1 trillion overall federal budget for 2003.

The officials, who asked not to be identified, said they expected lawmakers to approve next year's 12 percent budget increase despite major controversy over Bush's costly plan to build a missile defense system for the United States.

"I think it would be hard to dismiss a very large increase after September," said one of the officials referring to the devastating Sept. 11 terror attacks on America, which Washington blames on the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.

Bush has already announced that he plans to call for an increase to $379 billion next year to arm and prepare the U.S. military for war against both "terrorist" guerrillas and nations in the years ahead.

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which has toppled that country's ruling hard-line Islamist Taliban movement and battered the Afghan-based al Qaeda, is already costing Washington more than $1 billion a month.

BIGGEST BOOST SINCE REAGAN INCREASES

Next year's proposed defense spending increase of 12 per cent after allowing for inflation would be the biggest percentage boost in the military budget since then-President Ronald Reagan began a five-year arms build-up 21 years ago that left the Soviet Union broken.

Bush and members of Congress have agreed that the world's only superpower military must gird with new arms, technologies and strategies to fight "terrorists" such as the anti-Western al Qaeda network, blamed by Washington for attacks that killed more than 3,000 people in Washington and New York.

The New York Times first reported the new five-year budget projection figures on Saturday, quoting congressional and defense industry officials.

Much of the 2003 defense budget to be sent to the legislature on Monday would cover better troop pay and benefits.

But officials said it would also devote $29 billion to the war on terrorism and $9 billion to unconventional arms ranging from pilotless spy planes carrying missiles to a laser communications system for troops.

The budget would re-supply the Air Force with thousands of satellite-guided bombs used in Afghanistan and convert four big Cold War submarines built to fire long-range nuclear missiles to instead launch dozens of conventional cruise missiles.

Bush's plan reflected Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's call this week for more spending on high-tech weapons and innovative post-Cold War strategy to protect the nation from "the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen and the unexpected."

Bush's budget includes $7.8 billion for missile defense, a figure unchanged from the current year. But critics of the testing program to shoot down missiles from "rogue" states are concerned over a Congressional Budget Office estimate this week that it could cost $238 billion over the next 15-25 years.

Commentary:
Let's assume more guns would have stopped the terrorists attack, the responsible thing for a president to do is "pay" for what he intends to spend, instead of giving us tax cuts.

Bush is already blaming democrats for the projected deficits even though he's the one asking for all this new spending while at the same time demanding that his tax cut NOT be appealed. On all matter regarding morality, ignore Bush.


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White House Told Not to Destroy Enron Papers
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stepping up its criminal probe of Enron Corp.'s collapse, the Justice Department told President Bush's staff on Friday not to destroy any documents related to the bankrupt energy trading company, Bush's biggest political contributor.

The White House said it would comply with the request, which calls for staff to retain all written and electronic notes, letters and files related to Enron's financial condition and business interests since Jan. 1, 1999. Enron has made some $623,000 in contributions to Bush's campaigns since 1993.

"We believe that documents in the possession of the White House, its staff and employees may contain information relevant to our investigation," Christopher Wray, principal associate deputy attorney general, said in a letter to the White House counsel's office. Officials said the letter applied to the White House and other federal agencies.

The Justice Department also asked the White House to retain notes and memos stemming from contacts with anyone who works or worked for the Houston-based company -- from top Enron executives to those who may have acting unofficially or indirectly on its behalf.

A Justice Department task force and the FBI have been conducting a criminal investigation into Enron's collapse, in which thousands of workers lost their jobs and pension savings amid allegations that the company misled investors about its accounting practices. Enron's Dec. 2 bankruptcy was the biggest in U.S. history.

The Bush White House has close ties to Enron and its former chairman, Kenneth Lay.

Last autumn, Lay called Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Bush's 2000 campaign manager, to warn them of Enron's mounting financial problems.

Enron President Lawrence "Greg" Whalley also spoke repeatedly with Treasury Undersecretary Peter Fisher in late October and early November, seeking help for the beleaguered company.

On Thursday the White House disclosed that Lay had recommended candidates to fill top government posts, including Pat Wood, now chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

"Enron made contributions to a lot of people around Washington, D.C., and if they came to this administration looking for help they didn't find any," Bush said this week in his administration's defense.

The Justice Department's request would cover some documents from the Clinton administration, which left office in January 2001.

"All documents relating to these subjects should be preserved, even if there would be a question whether the document would be a presidential or federal record or even if its destruction might otherwise be permitted," Wray wrote.

"At this time, we are only requesting that you ensure the retention of these records," he added.

The Justice Department had no comment.

WHITE HOUSE ALERTS STAFF

The White House said it immediately issued an e-mail alert to its offices and employees, instructing them to comply with the Justice Department's request.

Justice tells the WH not to shred documents and all they do is send out an email? Sounds like they still don't get it.

"We intend to fully comply with it in keeping with our commitment to providing all the information relevant," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.

Earlier this month, Justice Department officials and FBI agents descended on Enron's headquarters to collect evidence of document shredding after the Securities and Exchange Commission launched its probe in October.

Congressional committees have also launched investigations into Enron's finances, including an estimated 3,000 outside partnerships central to Enron's unraveling. The partnerships were used by Enron to keep debt off its highly leveraged balance sheet and to enhance earnings.

Democrats have raised questions about Bush's ties to Enron and its top executives, and have asked if the firm used influence in secret meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney to shape a favorable administration energy policy.

The administration has disclosed that representatives of Enron met six times with Cheney or his staff involved in energy policy. The last contact took place in October, just days before Enron announced a charge against earnings, the first hint of its spectacular unraveling.

But the White House has refused to give congressional investigators records related to those meetings.

The General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, announced this week that it would take the unprecedented step of filing suit against the administration to obtain the papers. The White House asserts that the GAO is not entitled to the internal records and has promised to fight their release in court.


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Court Tells Cheney to Explain Task Force Secrecy
Reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge has ordered Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force to explain the constitutional argument behind its refusal to release details of its meetings, a group suing for the records said on Friday.

The White House has acknowledged that representatives of failed energy-trading giant Enron Corp. were among industry experts the task force met with last year while it was formulating the Bush administration's energy policy.

But the administration has refused to release other details of the task force's operation, such as the names of people it consulted, saying this would harm the president's constitutional right to get candid advice.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Thursday ordered the energy task force to explain this argument by next Tuesday as part of a case brought by Judicial Watch, a public interest law firm.

Judicial Watch filed suit last July against the National Energy Policy Development Group that was chaired by Cheney, demanding the administration release records on who the task force met and when, and minutes of the meetings held.

"This order shows the court is taking our case very seriously," Larry Klayman, chairman and general counsel of the group, told Reuters.

"We are confident of our position and will respond to the court on Tuesday," said Jennifer Millerwise, spokeswoman for Cheney.

Sullivan, in an order handed down on Thursday and released by Judicial Watch, said the task force's lawyers had provided "insufficient guidance to the court to analyze the constitutional concerns implicated by potential discovery in this case."

Accordingly, he ordered that by close of business Tuesday the task force lawyers should file a brief explaining "in what way would allowing limited discovery into the ... specific types of information and documents violate Article II of the United States Constitution." Article II states the president's powers.

Sullivan asked Judicial Watch to respond to the administration's arguments by Feb. 8. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 12.


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GAO Litigation Letter to White House
gao.gov

United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548
Comptroller General
of the United States

Decision of the Comptroller General Concerning NEPDG Litigation
January 30, 2002

As you know, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) has been engaged in an ongoing effort to obtain certain narrowly defined, factual information concerning the development of the National Energy Policy proposal from Vice President Cheney in his role as Chair of the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG). Importantly, we are only seeking limited information in connection with NEPDG-related matters.

The administration used the NEPDG as a mechanism to, among other things,outreach to selected non-governmental parties and develop a proposed comprehensive energy policy. In addition, contrary to recent assertions, we are not seeking the minutes of these meetings or related notes of the Vice President's staff. This was conveyed to the White House in writing on August 17, 2001. Unfortunately, despite our numerous attempts to reach a reasoned and reasonable accommodation on this matter, to date, the information we requested has not been made available to us.

In his August 2, 2001, letter to both Houses of Congress, the Vice President raised a number of objections to providing the information we requested. Importantly, for both the Congress and GAO, the Vice President challenged GAO's fundamental statutory authority to assist the Congress in connection with its constitutional, legislative and oversight authorities. These challenges went far beyond issues relating to his constitutional position as Vice President and White House staff related matters. As noted in our prior correspondence concerning this matter, the information we are seeking is clearly within our statutory audit and access authority. Accordingly, as provided in our statutory access authority, on July 18, 2001, we issued a formal request for the records. Unfortunately, the statutory 20-day response period passed without any meaningful action by the Office of the Vice President. In accordance with the prescribed statutory process, on August 17, 2001, we reported to the Congress, the President, the Vice President, and other officials that the NEPDG had not provided the requested records. While the NEPDG did provide some cost-related documents to GAO, most of these documents were not useful or self-explanatory. Moreover, even though the Vice President and his counsel acknowledge our authority to access cost information, they have not provided us the remaining cost information and explanations requested. Apart from information concerning the Vice President's meetings, they also have not provided us with factual information concerning who the NEPDG staff, including non-White House staff who were assigned to the NEPDG from various government departments and agencies, met with and the purpose of those meetings.

We strongly disagree with the Vice President's objections to our audit and access authority. Significantly, under GAO's statutory access authority, Congress provided the President and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget a safety valve to preclude judicial enforcement of GAO's access rights. The executive branch has chosen not to use this mechanism. Furthermore, the President has not claimed executive privilege in connection with our request. As previously noted, all of our attempts to reach a reasoned and reasonable accommodation, including reducing the scope of our request, have been rebuffed, and we have now exhausted the statutory process for resolving our access requests. As a result, our only remaining recourse is either to file suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or to forego further assertion of our access rights.

GAO was preparing to go to court in September of this past year until the tragic events of September 11. As I stated last September, prudence dictated that we delay any related legal action given the immediate need for the administration and the Congress to focus on developing our Nation's initial response to our fight against international terrorism and efforts to protect our homeland.

The Congress has a right to the information we are seeking in connection with its consideration of comprehensive energy legislation and its ongoing oversight activities. Energy policy is an important economic and environmental matter with significant domestic and international implications. It affects the lives of each and every American. How it is formulated has understandably been a longstanding interest of the Congress. In addition, the recent bankruptcy of Enron has served to increase congressional interest in energy policy, in general, and NEPDG activities, in particular. This, plus the Senate's expected consideration of comprehensive energy legislation this session, reinforces the need for the information we requested concerning the development of the National Energy Policy proposal. In this regard, we recently received a request for the NEPDG information we are seeking from four Senate committee and subcommittee chairmen with jurisdiction over the matters involved. Importantly, our governing statute requires GAO to perform such committee requests.

Clearly, the formulation and oversight of energy policy and the investigation of Enron-related activities represent important institutional prerogatives of the Congress. Furthermore, a number of other important principles are involved. Failure to provide the information we are seeking serves to undercut the important principles of transparency and accountability in government. These principles are important elements of a democracy. They represent basic principles of "good government" that transcend administrations, partisan politics, and the issues of the moment. As such, they should be vigorously defended. Otherwise, it could erode public confidence in and respect for the institutions of government.

The disclosure of the activities of the NEPDG is also important for precedential reasons. Specifically, the NEPDG was financed with appropriated funds and staffed largely by government department and agency personnel assigned to it. We disagree with the White House position that the formation of energy policy by the NEPDG is beyond congressional oversight and GAO review. Were the Vice President's arguments in this case to prevail, any administration seeking to insulate its activities from oversight and public scrutiny could do so simply by assigning those activities to the Vice President or a body under the White House's direct control.

In our view, failure to pursue this matter could lead to a pattern of records access denials that would significantly undercut GAO's ability to assist Congress in exercising its legislative and oversight authorities. We would have strongly preferred to avoid litigation in connection with this matter, but given the request by the four Senate committee and subcommittee chairmen, our rights to this information and the important principles and precedents involved, GAO will take the steps necessary to file suit in United States District Court in order to obtain, from the Chair of the NEPDG, the information outlined in our August 17, 2001, report. This will be the first time that GAO has filed suit to enforce our access rights against a federal official. We hope it is the last time that we will have to do so.

We have great confidence in our nation's legal system and look for a timely resolution of this important matter. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely yours,
[signed]

David M. Walker
Comptroller General
of the United States

President of the United States
Vice President of the United States


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