General Accounting Office chief David Walker said the watchdog agency will not appeal a Dec. 9 court ruling in favor of the Bush White House, which refuses to reveal which industry executives and lobbyists Cheney and his aides met with in the early months of the administration.
"GAO strongly believes the district court's decision is incorrect," said Walker, the GAO's comptroller general.
But "further pursuit of the ... information would require investment of significant time and resources over several years," Walker said. Several private organizations are pursuing the same information in separate court cases, he noted.
U.S. District Judge John Bates, a Bush appointee, had said the GAO's lawsuit seeking to find out whom Cheney and his aides met with from the business sector was an unprecedented act that raised serious separation-of-powers issues.
The head of the GAO said, however, that Bates's decision "did not address the merits" of the lawsuit and would not restrict the agency's ability to carry out its investigative responsibilities in other arenas.
Walker said that he had engaged in "extensive outreach with congressional leadership." Both the House and the Senate are now under Republican control.
In dismissing the case, the judge said in December that only seven senators and congressmen had expressed support for the efforts to get the information.
"No court has ever before granted what the comptroller general seeks," wrote Bates.
"This case, in which neither a House of Congress nor any congressional committee has issued a subpoena for the disputed information or authorized this suit, is not the setting for such unprecedented judicial action," wrote the judge.
The Cheney energy plan issued in the spring of 2001 called for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and eased regulatory barriers to new nuclear power plants. The plan's recommendations included steps to increase conservation and encourage the use of alternative fuels as well as to protect the environment.
The suit asked the court to require Cheney to reveal who attended the energy tax force meetings, with whom the task force met to develop its recommendations, how it determined whom to invite and how much it cost to develop the policy.
Aside from a few details that the Bush administration revealed amid the collapse of Enron Corp., the White House has refused to identify the people the Cheney task force met with. Enron representatives met six times with the vice president or his aides.