What the Legal Services Corporation Doesn’t Want Congress to Know

LSC logoNLPC 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.

As someone who served in senior positions within the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) from 1989-1994 (Counsel to the LSC Board, Director of the Office of Policy Development), I would like Congress to know what LSC does not want them to know.

Most funding for LSC-funded programs comes from non-LSC sources – not LSC.

But you would not find this important …

Boehm Takes Aim at Legal Services Corporation in National Law Journal Interview

Boehm testifyingFrom today’s National Law Journal by Tony Mauro:

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.

Earlier this month Boehm spoke with the The National Law Journal to discuss LSC and proposals to cut its budget.

Q: What is your current assessment of the Legal

House Defeats Amendment to Eliminate Legal Services Corporation

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.

This episode underscores divisions between the House leadership and less senior members who are actually committed to cutting spending. It is obvious that Republicans are not going to cut ridiculous and wasteful spending just because they claim that they favor fiscal responsibility during political campaigns.

The vote was 259-171. Here are the 68 Republicans who voted against the Duncan amendment to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation:

Bass (NH)
Burton (IN)

Hal Rogers Again Spares Legal Services Corporation; Controversial Program Must Be Completely Defunded

LSC logoIn 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.

If ever a program deserves to be zeroed out, it is LSC. Hal Rogers is well aware of LSC’s history of controversy and corruption because he has chaired the appropriations subcommittee that has LSC oversight. He has offered a drumbeat of criticism, at times expressing exasperation with LSC …

Hal Rogers Spares LSC; Is GOP Serious About Spending Cuts?

Hal Rogers photoIn 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 2010, LSC received $420 million in federal funds. It supports 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 Left-wing political and social causes.

When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, they passed a three-year phase out of LSC. …

New Congress Must Defund Legal Services Corporation, AARP, and Soros

John Boehner photoIn 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.

When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, they passed a three-year phase-out of LSC. They also passed strict rules on how the money could be spent. Drafted with …

New Evidence Shows Fraud, Inefficiency Among Legal Services Grantees

LSC logoMisuse 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.

Chartered as a nonprofit corporation by Congress in 1974, LSC provides funds to nonprofit legal organizations in states and communities across the nation enabling them to pursue civil cases on behalf of low-income persons. From its …

Boehm Predicts Resurgence of Legal Services Abuses if Reforms Are Gutted

Boehm testifying photoAt 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.

Because of controversy, LSC has not been reauthorized since 1977. A series of reforms were instituted in 1996 as appropriations riders to combat the politicization of the program.  The proposed …

Federal Audits Reveal Further Legal Services Abuses

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IowaWhen 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.The White House Fiscal 2010 budget calls for a hike in LSC spending from $390 million to $435 million. That’s actually a taxpayer bargain compared to the $750 million a year that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is seeking for the corporation under his proposed Civil Access to Justice Act (S. 718). If lawmakers really want to do the public a good turn, they would focus on how LSC spends its existing money. Recent audits of the corporation by Legal Services Corporation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Congress’ Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveal an organization …

House Subcommittee Begins Unraveling Restrictions on Legal Services Activism

Mollohan photoA 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.The prohibition on collecting attorneys’ fees, a routine practice for private sector lawyers, is necessary …

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