Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cheney keeps travel costs secret

This little story doesn't surprise me, considering Cheney's office is stuck in the middle of it. The Vice President's office refuses to reveal any truth to the American public, no matter how trivial it is. Cheney's office will either lie about it, or declare it as classified.

This is from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Washington -- Open-government advocates say Vice President Dick Cheney is to executive branch secrecy what darkness is to the night.

In 2001, Cheney famously refused to disclose the names of oil company executives and others who attended meetings of a White House energy task force that he headed, which helped draft a national energy policy.

More recently, a government watchdog group has called attention to less-noticed records that Cheney has sought to keep private: travel costs.

In a report this month, the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity said Cheney and his staff have sidestepped regulations that require annual reporting of travel expenses of more than $250 received from outside groups. The center, which focuses on ethics and public service issues, said previous vice presidents routinely disclosed such payments for lodging, travel and food when the vice president and his staff made appearances at colleges, think tanks and trade associations.

"The private sector reimburses elected officials and bureaucrats for such trips, but laws require officials to disclose where they went, how much it costs and who paid for it," the report said, citing provisions found in Section 1353 of Title 13 of the U.S. Code.

Cheney's office says nothing is amiss. In three letters since 2002 to the Office of Government Ethics, which collects the travel reports, David Addington, then Cheney's general counsel, noted that the reporting requirement applies to the "head of each agency of the executive branch."

"The Office of the Vice President is not an 'agency of the executive branch,' and hence the reporting requirement does not apply," wrote Addington, who this month replaced Lewis "Scooter" Libby as Cheney's chief of staff.

So the Vice President's office is not an agency of the executive branch, therefore it should not publicly report travel costs. Does this make any sense--classifying Cheney's travel costs? You've got to wonder now, what is Cheney hiding? How much is Cheney getting for his speeches at colleges and think-tanks? Continuing on:

Since 2003, President Bush's office has reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in such travel, the center noted. And all but one office within the Executive Office of the President -- the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board -- has done so.

It doesn't matter, according to Addington. In a Feb. 25 letter to Marilyn Glynn, acting director of the ethics office, he wrote that "none of the vice president's employees . . . accepted payments under Section 1353."

It doesn't matter because none of the vice president's employees accepted large payments disguised as travel costs to think tanks and colleges. And none of the vice president's employees accepted them because the vice president's office said they didn't accept them. Where's the accountability? Where's the evidence?

Right here:

Yet, according to the center's research, Cheney has given 23 speeches to think tanks and trade organizations and 16 at academic institutions since 2001 -- apparently all at taxpayers' expense.

It "appears that his office labels them 'official travel,' " the center said. "As a result . . . the public is kept largely unaware of where he and his staff are traveling, with whom they are meeting and how much it costs, even though tax dollars are covering the bill."

We have got to get these criminals out of the White House.

No comments: