A federal judge refused yesterday to stop the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from turning over tape recordings and transcripts of meetings last August to a House subcommittee that is investigating the commission's dealings in connection with cattle contracts at the Chicago Merchantile Exchange.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Richey rejected commission member David G. Gartner's claim that his comments during the commission's closed meetings last summer were privileged remarks that shouldn't be disclosed to the committee. The CFTC commissioners had voted 3 to 1, with Gartner the sole dissent, to comply with a House subpoena for the records, which are to be delivered today.
Gartner's attorney, Neal Peterson, took Richey's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals late yesterday seeking an emergency postponement of the decision, but was turned down.
In turning down Gartner's request earlier, Richey said that the law is "abundantly clear" that only the government, or in this case the commission as a whole, could assert a claim that the records are privileged and therefore shouldn't be surrendered to the committee.
Richey said he knew of no other case in which an individual had made such a claim successfully. If Gartner's argument were upheld, it would interfere with all independent government agencies, effectively giving a minority voter, like Gartner, the power to "abolish majority rule," Richey said.
Moreover, Richey said in issuing a ruling from the bench yesterday that the public interest would be "substantially harmed" if the court were to involve itself in this particular congressional activity.
Asked to comment on Richey's ruling, Gartner, who is considered one of the most outspoken members of the commission, replied, "I never comment when I'm mad."