DESPITE MOUNTING pressure on President George Bush's administration to explain the full extent of its dealings with Enron, the bankrupt Texas energy company, Dick Cheney, the Vice- President, insisted yesterday he had no intention of disclosing the full list of industry lobbyists he consulted while drawing up a controversial national energy plan last year.
Mr Cheney has been pressed for months to explain how often he met officials from Enron and other energy companies, and how influential they were in lobbying for tax breaks, looser government regulations and new business opportunities, such as the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration.
Pressure has built since Enron collapsed under a mountain of accounting irregularities. Its extensive political contacts, notably with Bush administration officials, have grown into a scandal.
The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has threatened to take the White House to court in the next few days to force the release of Mr Cheney's contact list, and its efforts are being cheered by several Democratic congressmen determined to cause maximum embarrassment.
Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, has identified 17 points in the energy plan that would have specifically benefited Enron and has applied continual pressure on the White House to explain itself.
Mr Cheney, speaking on morning television shows, insisted full disclosure was out of the question. Revealing details of closed- door meetings, he said, "would make it virtually impossible for me to have confidential conversations with anybody". He said: "You cannot accept that proposition without putting a chill over the ability of the President and Vice-President to receive unvarnished advice."
Although Mr Cheney said his position on the issue had remained unchanged since last summer, when accusations of undue influence on the energy plan were first raised, the White House has ceded some ground in recent weeks, acknowledging there were at least six meetings between Enron officials and the White House.
The Bush administration finds itself in a hazardous position politically, …