The distinction between the Cheney task force and the Hillary task force is not only constitutional, but statutory. Hillary set up committee of 1000 or so, many of whom were placed on the payroll or received stipends, they set-up sub-committees with regular membership, and they conducted hearings of sorts. This triggered, among other things, the requirement for open meetings applicable to all federal task forces. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, did none of these things, and his meetings were nothing akin to a federal task force.
I also align myself with Andy McCarthy’s earlier constitutional points. Moreover, a first lady has neither a constitutional nor statutory role. Cabinet secretaries are creatures of law, whose overall responsibilities and salary are set by statute. They can be directly impeached and removed from office. You don’t have to defeat the president in an election to remove a cabinet officer. I see no comparisons between a first lady and any other role or job in the federal government. Further, I have no problem with a first lady playing a policy role in her husband’s administration, as long as she complies with the law. Hillary did not. Dick Cheney did.
Politically, while some have suggested that there’s a fallout in making a constitutional defense, as here, against the revelation of those who provided advice to the vice president, I see virtually none. This will have no consequence on the election, and yet it leaves the office of the presidency undamaged from “populist” litigation.
Finally, as for maintaining secrecy over these meetings, I’ve always found this a weird argument, albeit popular. What’s so secret? The president and vice president believe in energy production, including expanded drilling. Bush and Cheney are receptive to energy industry desires for more production. They share the same overall objective. The president has proposed an energy bill that plainly presents his objectives and program. Other than playing “gotcha” — a favorite Washington game — suggesting something untoward by the possible attendance of oil executives at various meetings, why does it matter? We knew the administration’s basic viewpoint even before task force came into existence, and we know the outcome.