ATLANTA -- There's a potentially juicy confrontation brewing between the White House and the government's General Accounting Office. If it comes to pass -- or, rather, impasse -- root for the bureaucrats on this one.
GAO, the government watchdog agency, has asked the Bush administration for a list of the persons who had input into Vice President Dick Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group -- the ad hoc task force that ginned up the plan the president announced in mid-May.
That was the drill-and-burn, SUVs-rule program that Bush announced before he ran off to a couple of national parks to tree-hug as a photo-op environmentalist.
Some congressional Democrats, especially Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee, suspect the plan was drawn by energy industry executives and lobbyists, including major political donors.
Energy industries gave nearly $49 million to GOP candidates in the last election, $2.85 million to the Bush campaign. That was more than three times the tribute paid Democrats. Now trade groups are ponying up to join a jury-rigged Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth to push for enactment of the Bush policy, under the admonition of one key lobbyist that "the White House will have a long memory" about businesses that don't buy in.
What has been missing from the overall picture are the specific names of the persons the task force listened to and, on the surface evidence, harkened to.
Cheney's office is taking the position that there is no legal basis for GAO's request and that, anyway, the task force was private and none of the government's or the public's business.
And there it stands for now. We shall see.
Meantime, there's a curious aside to all this. There's no public outcry about conspiracy and secrecy. You have to excavate the inside pages of newspapers, and then only the big ones, for even a hint of the issue.
How different from the similar situation when Hillary Clinton was working up a plan for universal health coverage for the Clinton administration. You would have thought some evil coup was afoot -- and in that case without even the potential for paying off political contributors behind the closed doors.
The Clintons complained about a "Republican attack machine." Their gripe was sloughed off as sour grapes, but in fact there is a manifest double standard at work.
Not only is Cheney's dodg iness going largely unremarked. There has been no stink raised about the fact that Karl Rove, Bush's right-hand man, met with Intel executives who were seeking federal approval for a merger, then sold his slumped Intel stock at a get-well price after the merger was approved.
Lesser provocations than these during the Clinton administration produced instant congressional hearings and sent floods of talking-point e-mails and faxes to the ready mouths of the nation's informal but lockstep network of conservative talk radio.
There may or may not be a scandal gap between the Bush and Clinton administrations in the long run, but already it is clear that there is a huge gap in scandal-mongering.
© Copyright 2001 Star Tribune