WASHINGTON -- A group suing Vice President Dick Cheney says it was rebuffed by the White House when it tried to provide legal notification to the vice president about the lawsuit.
Judicial Watch said its process server was threatened with arrest by the Secret Service on Monday after the server telephoned the White House from one of the outside gates and was unable to find anyone who would accept a copy of the lawsuit.
Judicial Watch alleges fraudulent accounting practices at Halliburton Corp., the company Cheney ran for five years. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the oil service firm's accounting for construction project overruns.
Cheney counselor Mary Matalin called Judicial Watch's announcement Friday about the process server a "PR stunt" and said the vice president's private attorney would have accepted the legal papers.
Terrence O'Donnell of the Washington law firm Williams & Connolly is Cheney's personal attorney.
Judicial Watch said this is the first time it has ever been turned away by the White House after filing numerous lawsuits over the years against then-President Clinton, the first lady and Vice President Al Gore.
"The Clinton White House accepted the papers," said Judicial Watch chairman Larry Klayman. "Never before have our process servers been threatened with arrest."
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said that in the Clinton era, "normally someone in the White House would come out to the gate" and accept the papers. According to an affidavit by process server Tom Chedester, one of the guards said he would be arrested if he left the papers with the guard. In an interview, Secret Service spokesman Marc Connolly said the guards are not authorized to accept service.
The group pointed to a section of federal law making it a crime to obstruct a person who is "duly authorized" to serve legal papers of any federal court.