Submitted by NLPC Staff on Thu, 03/22/2012 - 13:55
NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm has submitted this written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which is holding a hearing today on funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC):
Members of the House Committee on Appropriations are certainly used to hearing from representatives of federally-funded programs about the good work done by such programs and why they need many millions more in taxpayer funds, despite the unsustainable national debt. This year the Legal Services Corporation has submitted a FY2013 budget request for $470 million.
Kenneth Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center in Falls Church, Va., was once a senior official of the Legal Services Corp., serving as counsel to its board of directors from 1991 to 1994.
Since then, Boehm has been one of the LSC's most persistent critics, urging reform and even elimination of the agency. Last year he testified before the House Judiciary Committee, asking members to reject a bill that would have, in his view, eliminated many of the beneficial reforms Congress enacted in 1996. He warned that if the bill passed, "once again Legal Services will be known as a federal program plagued with unaccountability and controversy." The bill died.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday defeated an amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would have eliminated the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), the amendment should not have been necessary. Appropriations Committee Hall Rogers (R-KY) protected LSC by inserting only a modest cut of $70 million in the Continuing Resolution. He should have zeroed it out. In fiscal year 2010, LSC received $420 million.
In response to criticism that his first round of cuts did not go far enough, House Appropriations Committee Hal Rogers (R-KY) has now produced a continuing resolution with $100 billion in cuts. Amazingly, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) again survived relatively intact.
Instead of a modest $75 million cut, Rogers has now increased the cut to a modest $85 million. Even the size of these cuts is illusory because they are off of President Obama's fiscal year 2011 budget figure of $435 million. When applied against the $420 million that LSC actually received in 2010, the latest cut is only $70 million.
In the budget cuts announced today by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is slated for a token $75 million reduction. This is a genuine outrage. LSC should have been zeroed out completely.
In a statement today titled "CR Spending Cuts Go Deep," Rogers says, "Make no mistake, these cuts are not low hanging fruit." This is nonsense. Defunding the politicized and scandal-ridden LSC should have been easy. If the Republican Congress can't even cut off LSC, how will it ever make the tough choices necessary to reduce the deficit?
In the previous years, NLPC has demanded an end to taxpayer funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), AARP and George Soros’ private foundations, only to be rebuffed by Democratic and Republican Congresses. The incoming Congress was elected to cut out inappropriate spending. The practice of collecting money from all taxpayers and using it to promote political causes with which many disagree is simply unethical. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) must put a stop to it.
Legal Services Corporation- This year, LSC is receiving $420 million in tax dollars. LSC funds 136 local groups to provide civil (not criminal) day-to-day legal help to poor people. Unfortunately, many LSC-funded lawyers instead spend their time on liberal political and social causes.
Misuse of Legal Services Corporation funds is nothing new. The most publicized cases typically involve lawsuits by affiliated nonprofit legal groups that run contrary to the LSC charter. Recent months, however, have witnessed a different kind of problem: use of public money for private pleasure. New reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the LSC Office of Inspector General, plus a lengthy summary article by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity, highlight acts of theft or excessive spending at recipient organizations of LSC funds and a lack of internal controls by top LSC officials. As the Legal Services Corp. budget is currently $420 million, taxpayers have every reason to be concerned.
At a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm was the lone witness opposed to reauthorization of the taxpayer-funded Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The April 27 hearing was chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who favors the reauthorization bill that increases the LSC budget to $750 million and strips out important reforms instituted in 1996.
Boehm warned that the reauthorization would mean a new round of problems for the scandal-plagued program. LSC funds a network of lawyers in dozens of communities to provide civil (not criminal) day-to-day legal help to poor people. Many LSC-funded lawyers spend their time on left-wing political and social causes, instead of helping the poor. Click here to download a 14-page pdf of Boehm’s testimony.
When it comes to oversight of federal programs, President Obama and key Democratic allies appear mired in self-contradiction. On one hand, they demand more accountability from the programs. On the other, they advocate increasing budgets for agencies with documented weak internal controls. Legal Services Corporation (LSC) may be the most glaring example of this syndrome.
A key congressional appropriations committee recently took the first step in removing restrictions on the ability of legal aid programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to use taxpayer dollars to engage in politically-motivated litigation. On June 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, chaired by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), voted to lift the restriction on the ability of LSC-funded programs to collect attorneys' fees.
This restriction was part of a series of provisions Congress enacted 13 years ago in an attempt to end the practice of legal services lawyers using taxpayer money to file lawsuits advancing liberal political causes. In addition to the prohibition on collecting attorneys' fees, the restrictions included bans on filing class action lawsuits, challenges to welfare reform, representation of undocumented aliens, and abortion advocacy.