Watchdog group sues vice president over records

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WASHINGTON -- A watchdog group sued Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday, seeking a court order that he comply with the Presidential Records Act.

The group that sued is concerned that Cheney will argue that his records are not subject to the post-Watergate law aimed at safeguarding White House records for eventual release to the public.

The lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington stems from Cheney's position that his office is not part of the executive branch of government.

A spokesman for Cheney, Jamie Hennigan, said the office of the vice president follows the Presidential Records Act and will continue to follow the requirements of the law. He said that includes turning over vice presidential records to the National Archives at the end of the term.

"Given the unlawful policies and directives of the defendants, there is an imminent threat that even before the end of this administration, Vice President Cheney and the OVP will destroy, transfer, or otherwise dispose of many of the vice president's records under the theory they are personal records and therefore not covered" by the law, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit details Bush administration actions that raise questions over whether the White House will turn over records created by Cheney and his staff to the National Archives in January.

President Bush issued an order in 2001 saying that the Presidential Records Act applies to the "executive records" of the vice president.

In 2003, Cheney asserted that the office of the vice president is not an entity within the executive branch.

On four occasions, the vice president's office has refused to comply with an Ethics in Government Act requirement that all executive branch agencies file reports on any privately paid travel. Separately, the vice president's office has refused to submit its staff list to Congress.

Two months ago, Cheney chief of staff David Addington told Congress the vice president belongs to neither the executive nor legislative branch of government, but rather is attached by the Constitution to Congress. The vice president presides over the Senate.

CREW also is suing the National Archives, which said recently that legislative records of the vice president subject to the Presidential Records Act are the vice president's personal records.

Others joining CREW in the lawsuit are two noted historians and three organizations of historians and archivists.

The lawsuit is before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Clinton.

Separately, 32 historians wrote congressional leaders saying that the Presidential Records Act should be strengthened to include some kind of enforcement mechanism for violations. The historians cited the White House e-mail controversy involving millions of apparently missing emails.

The White House is missing as many as 225 days of e-mail dating back to 2003 and there is little if any likelihood a recovery effort will be completed by the time the Bush administration leaves office, according to an internal White House draft document obtained by The Associated Press.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: