A U.S. District Court judge here has dismissed a suit by a coalition of anti-hunger groups, which alleged that the president's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control violated the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The coalition had charged that the survey violated the act because the membership of its executive committee was not "balanced" and because its 36 task forces did not provide access to documents or meetings.
Noting that the law never defines "balanced," Judge Gerhard A. Gesell said that if it was "interpreted most broadly, it would take far more than a mere 150 individuals the task force membership to ensure that every point of view concerned with the financial administration of federal programs be represented."
Gesell said that because the task forces do not provide advice directly to the president or any agency, but to the survey's executive committee, they are not covered by the act.
"If the act were interpreted as the plaintiffs suggest, the effort of the president to seek fiscal advice from the private sector would come to a total halt and the attempt to formulate efficient fiscal management of the government would bog down in a plethora of hearings, demands for document access and increasing time-consuming litigation."
In his ruling, Gesell took a swipe at Congress' handiwork, saying the advisory committee act "is another example of unimpressive legislative drafting. It is obscure, imprecise and open to interpretations . . . . Not surprisingly, litigants seize on such uncertainties and may try to press statutory claims beyond constitutional boundaries."
The survey's executive committee has begun open meetings to discuss the task force reports.