CAGW Issues Weekly Spending Cut: Legal Services Corporation

For Immediate Release
April 15, 2011

 

Contact:  Leslie K. Paige 202-467-5334 Luke Gelber 202-467-5318

CAGW Issues Weekly Spending Cut: Legal Services Corporation

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) issued its weekly spending cut alert aimed at eliminating the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). LSC, which received $420 million in fiscal year (FY) 2010, distributes grant money to 138 nonprofit legal aid organizations across the country in an effort to provide free legal services for the poor. However, LSC has often used its taxpayer-provided funds not to grant legal representation to impoverished citizens, but to promote political agendas that have nothing to do with the indigent.

LSC has become the legal arm of America’s welfare state, fighting tooth and nail against welfare reform wherever it is proposed, even defending drug dealers against eviction from public housing. It has been criticized for allowing grantees to spring for luxurious hotel stays, improperly approved taxpayer-financed expenses for outside activities, and first-class upgrades on airfare without the required advance approval. A 2006 review conducted by the group’s inspector general found “spending practices that may appear excessive and inappropriate to LSC’s status as a federally funded, non-profit corporation, particularly in light of its mission in distributing taxpayer dollars to fund legal services for the poor.” As reports of inappropriate charges and behavior piled up, the LSC’s board met and tried to have the IG fired, unsuccessfully. But reports of the abuses of LSC funds persist, detailing LSC grant recipients using federal tax dollars for gambling, prostitution, and junkets.

In fact, feeble oversight and mismanagement of its grants have been long-standing characteristics of the LSC. At least 15 Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports issued between 1985 and 2010 found the same pattern of abuses. A June, 2010 GAO report reiterated earlier criticisms, calling the agency out for its failure to “effectively measure its performance,” not assessing “its long-term staffing needs to achieve strategic goals and objectives,” not consistently providing “performance reviews for all of its staff,” and “[m]issing or flawed internal controls.” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the LSC’s funding committee and an ardent LSC supporter, has expressed outrage at the LSC’s lax oversight and chronic mismanagement of its grants. In July, 2010, The Center for Public Integrity released a report which also documented the LSC’s weaknesses.

“The LSC has become another feeder at the federal trough which operates outside of any meaningful oversight. It has become very adept at funneling the taxpayer dollars it receives into a well-funded campaign to increase the size of government,” said CAGW’s President Tom Schatz. “The LSC is an enormously wasteful conflict of interest and should be abolished.”

Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government. The Spending Cut of the Week calls attention to a federal program that is wasteful or duplicative.

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