Monitor Breakfast: Comptroller General David M. Walker

On what information the GAO wants concerning the vice president's energy policy group:

"We are asking essentially who met with whom, when, where, about what, and what did it cost."

On why the information sought is important:

"...I think it is reasonable for Congress to be able to know and for the American people to be able to know, who met with whom, when, about what? What will it tell you? It will tell you the variety of interests whose views were sought in order to formulate the policy such that the Congress can then decide whether or not they want to proactively take any other effort to seek other views or make other inquiries."

On the chances the suit will succeed:

"I think we will win. I don't think we can get a much better case than this, I really don't. Let's face it, this is not foreign policy, this is not national security. We are not asking for deliberative information. The Senate has not passed energy legislation. There are all kinds of investigations going on dealing with Enron. As far as I am concerned this is not about Enron because we started this way before anyone heard of Enron. I don't think we can get a stronger case."

On the risk to the GAO if it loses the suit:

"My primary concern is the institution. We believe there is not a significant risk and the reason being because we believe the facts and the law are on our side. We believe that if we go to court we'll win. But you never know, obviously you never know in a circumstance like this. This type of issue hasn't been litigated previously. My personal view is that if we were to loose, and I don't believe that we will, ... it would likely be limiting our ability dealing with the immediate office of the president and the vice president and nothing else. And, quite frankly, I have never been enamored of GAO doing work in the White House. Inherently it involves potential issues of privilege, inherently involves a higher potential for politicization of the results. You know we do work for Republicans, too. We are doing work for Bob Barr right now to find out what the estimated damages were associated with Clinton moving out of the White House. Now frankly, I think there are other things I would rather be working on than something like that."

On the nature of any conversations he has had with the White House about the dispute:

"Let's just say to the extent I have had any conversations on this issue, there haven't been many, they have been very professional, they have been very open, they have been in situations where you want to hear what the other side has to say and you want to articulate what your position is and you want to reinforce you would like to try to work something out if you can. But if you can't, I've got a job to do and I am going to do it."

On overall nature of GAO's relations with the White House:

"We, GAO, have probably never had a more constructive working relationship with cabinet level officials and with OMB than we have right now. On items that are good government oriented, that have absolutely nothing to do with party or ideology or anything else, we have never had a better relationship. So it is frankly really frustrating to me that in light of that fact that we have this isolated instance that is getting a tremendous amount of visibility which is not something that we sought, not something that we want - and it is so contrary to how things are in general with regard to other things we are doing. It is very frustrating."

On the effect of Enron on the dispute:

"For us it is not an Enron issue. For some people on the Hill it probably is. We do our work at GAO - professional, objective, fact based, non-partisan - our clients, however, don't always do things that way. There is no question in my mind that some people view the Enron situation as clearly being linked to this..."

On whether Enron has complicated the dispute between GAO and the administration:

"It has sensationalized it."

On whether Enron has strengthened GAO's case:

"On the matter of the law, I don't know that it makes much difference. I am not a lawyer, OK. On the matter of congressional need, it may have."

On corporate ethical standards and whether Enron is an exception:

"There are some people in the world who view the law as the ceiling rather than the floor. There are some people in the world who view the standards as absolute. My view is the law and the standards are the floor. There are certain things like integrity, ethics, and doing what is right that rise above that. And I think Enron is an example of - at least based on what I know now - of where they wanted the technical letter but not the spirit. I think that is a problem."

On who does his taxes:

"This year I will do my taxes. Up until last year, Arthur Anderson did my taxes. Let me clarify November of 2000, I received the final distribution I was entitled to receive from Arthur Andersen that I had accrued before I left. Therefore they would do your tax return. Now I don't have anything else (with Andersen), I am not entitled to anything, so I will do my own tax return. I used to do it for years. The only time when I didn't do it was when I was a partner with Andersen."

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