This week, the Washington watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
filed a court order
demanding that Vice-President Dick Cheney hand over his records to the public. The Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978
, passed after Nixon's Watergate scandal, makes all executive records public, and explicitly states that any vice presidential records are to be treated in the same manner as the president's. A Cheney spokesperson states that his office will release his records to the National Archives once his term has ended, as outlined in the PRA. CREW, however, maintains that in light of the mismanagement of the White House email records, Cheney should turn over his documents immediately to ensure none are destroyed before January:
"Given the unlawful policies and directives of the defendants, there is an imminent threat that even before the end of this administration, Vice-President Cheney and the OVP will destroy, transfer, or otherwise dispose of many of the vice president's records under the theory they are personal records and therefore not covered" by law.
In 2003, Cheney stated that he does not consider the office of the Vice-President part of the executive, but rather, an extension of the Congress as President of the Senate
. CREW fears that under this interpretation, Cheney could withold important, and potentially incriminating, documents from public scrutiny. The National Archives has also taken a controversial stance, refusing to release certain vice-presidential documents which it has labelled personal, rather than public, in nature. CREW is taking on the Archives' position in a separate suit.
The multitude of lawsuits attacking the White House for failing to comply with ethics and record-keeping guidelines illustrates the need for an enforcement mechanism. A group of historians has written to Congress requesting legislation to that effect.