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Context of '1972: Law Restricts Influence of Government ‘Advisers’'

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Amendments to the federal Hatch Act of 1939, also known as the Clean Politics Act, set limits of $5,000 per year on individual contributions to a federal candidate or political committee. However, they do not prohibit donations from the same individual to multiple committees all working for the same candidate. The restrictions apply to primary elections as well as federal elections. Additionally, they bar contributions to federal candidates from individuals and businesses working for the federal government. (Federal Elections Commission 1998; Campaign Finance Timeline 1999; Center for Responsive Politics 2002 pdf file)

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) becomes law. The act is designed to regulate the operation of advisory committees, and includes an open meeting requirement. (Roberts 2008, pp. 10) The idea behind the law is to curtail the back-room decision-making that has become a hallmark of recent presidencies. (US Congress 1994; Federal Interagency Databases Online 2008)

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), joined by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), files suit against the US government alleging that the 2000 National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) is not a government product and therefore the government cannot legally distribute it. The USNA report was produced by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, an advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The report provided a detailed overview of the consequences of climate change and mechanisms for adaptation. According to CEI, the report used flawed computer models and presented historical climate data without including the data’s error margins. The suit will ultimately be settled when the Bush administration takes office. The Bush White House will agree that the USNA should not be treated as a product of the US government or serve as the basis for any federal policies, positions, or rules. After the settlement, references to this report will repeatedly be removed by Bush officials from future government reports. (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file)

House Democrats Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) write to Andrew Lundquist, the executive director of the Cheney energy task force (see January 29, 2001), asking for access to the task force’s records. Waxman and Dingell ask with whom the task force met and what had been said at those meetings. They base their request on the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), an open-government law that states when nongovernment officials, such as energy company officials or lobbyists, help craft public policy, the government must ensure that a balance of viewpoints is represented and such meetings must be open to the press and the public. Two weeks later, Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, replies, denying Waxman and Dingell any information. Addington says that FACA does not apply to the task force, and attaches a memo from Lundquist asserting that while nongovernmental officials have been part of the task force’s deliberations, since they were not official members of the task force, their participation does not count. “These meetings… were simply forums to collect individuals views rather than to bring a collective judgment to bear,” Addington writes. Addington then advises the representatives that they need to show “due regard for the constitutional separation of powers,” claims that the White House can assert executive privilege over the task force’s records, and finishes with the assertion that Congress is not even entitled to the information Addington has provided—he has done so, he writes, “as a matter of comity between the executive and legislative branches.” (General Accounting Office 8/25/2003 pdf file; Savage 2007, pp. 87-88)


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