“The negotiations went nowhere,” says a White House domestic policy aide. “The problem was Mary.” The reference is to Mary Matalin, a key adviser to Cheney and wife of Democratic operative James Carville. According to several White House sources, Matalin so angered GAO investigators during several early negotiating sessions that the GAO even declined to meet at all.
“She was so aggressive about the White House position,” says a GAO staffer who assisted in preparing the lawsuit, “it was hard to tell if they were serious about negotiating, or if they were just trying to make us out to be the bad guys.”
Several Cheney aides, according to the GAO source, seemed willing to allow limited GAO access to some documents related to the energy meetings. “We’re not sold that there is that much more to be found given what we’ve seen in the press,” says the GAO staffer. “Maybe there is, but the way some in the White House were acting, you’d think we were looking to get at the Nixon tapes. It was just odd.”
Matalin has been on the point in the administration’s fight with the GAO, insisting that principle is on the side of the White House in refusing to hand over energy task force records. Disclosure of names and conversations from many of those meetings, the White House says, would impede its ability to obtain candid advice from outside experts.
“We hope she’s right on this,” says another White House aide. “If it blows up in our faces, it will be the first major embarrassment for the administration.”
Matalin’s hiring was a controversial one for the administration. Many conservatives objected to it, in part because of her marriage to Carville. But her longtime ties to the Bush family won out.p> BOXER SHORTS br> California Sen.
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