At TPM, David Kurtz recently mused
on the irrational secrecy which has cloaked the Office of the Vice Presidency's staff list since Dick Cheney set up shop there. "It's about a perverse sense of entitlement and a deep aversion to scrutiny and accountability," wrote Kurtz. ""Time to shine some light on the OVP."
If that's not throwing down the gauntlet to the muckrakers, we don't know what is.
We called Leadership Directories, Inc., a private company which publishes expensive telephone books listing federal officials. OVP routinely shares information on roughly 30 employees, they told us. Of course, that's likely less than half the number of staffers in his office: in the January issue of the Washington Monthly
, Laura Rozen estimates
Cheney's staff size to be 88, plus various experts assigned temporary duty to OVP by their federal agencies. (The largest concentration of staff in a single area is likely to be in Cheney's national security staff: in 2005, Foreign Policy
's David Rothkopf asserted
(reg. req.) that Cheney has the largest national security staff of any vice president ever, with guesses ranging from 15 to 35 at any given time.)
Cheney's office refuses to give any details to reporters. His office is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, so any such request would be futile. What's more, Cheney appears to have exempted his office from having to disclose the number of appointed officials in his ranks: all other agencies have to release theirs for a government directory known as the "Plum Book."
Published every four years, the volume is supposed to list every position in the federal government that is assigned to a political appointee. Cheney's list was a more dangerous secret than even the CIA's. In the most recent edition published in 2004, the book shows the CIA as having eight such spots; it shows none for the vice president's office. Instead there is a brief appendix
(pdf) consisting of three rather wordy paragraphs that say a lot but say very little. It's important to note that past vice presidents have complied with the law. For example, here
: Two Cheney aides are named in the 2004 Plum Book after all, although they are listed under the "White House Office": then-chief of staff Scooter Libby, and Brian D. Montgomery, "Deputy Assistant to the President, Deputy Director of Presidential Speechwriting and Assistant to the Vice President."