WASHINGTON – A federal judge has ordered the Bush administration to release information about who visited Vice President Dick Cheney's office and personal residence, an order that could spark a late election season debate over lobbyists' White House access.
The Washington Post asked for two years of White House visitor logs in June but the Secret Service refused to process the request. Government attorneys called it "a fishing expedition into the most sensitive details of the vice presidency."
U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled Wednesday that, by the end of next week, the Secret Service must produce the records or at least identity them and justify why they are being withheld.
The newspaper sought logs for anyone visiting Cheney, his legal counsel, chief spokesman and other top aides and advisers.
The Secret Service had no comment on the ruling Thursday. In court documents, government attorneys said releasing the documents would infringe on Cheney's ability to seek advice.
"This case is about protecting the effective functioning of the vice presidency under the Constitution," attorneys wrote.
A lawsuit over similar records revealed last month that Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed — key figures in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal — landed more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House.
The Post cited those records, which were released to the Democratic Party and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, as evidence that the documents should be released.