Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lunacy at Legal Services Corporation [link]

Legal Services Corporation never seems to be able to do its job. It is suppose to provide basic legal assistance for the poor. But too often, it gets involved in anti-death penalty cases and other high profile litigation that have little to do with helping the poor overcome day-to-day legal problems.

The federal program that provides legal help to poor Americans turns away half of its applicants for lack of resources. But that hasn't stopped its executives from lavishing expensive meals, chauffeur-driven cars and foreign trips on themselves.

Lovely, huh?

Agency documents obtained by The Associated Press detail the luxuries that executives of the Legal Services Corp. have given themselves with federal money - from $14 "Death by Chocolate" desserts to $400 chauffeured rides to locations within cab distance of their offices.

The government-funded corporation also has a spacious headquarters in Washington's tony Georgetown district - with views of the Potomac River and a rent significantly higher than other tenants in the same building.

And board members wrote themselves a policy that doubled the amount they could claim for meals compared with their staff.

* * * *

Legal Services is a nonprofit corporation run with federal money that was created by Congress to provide legal help in civil matters for Americans who can't afford their own lawyers. It funds neighborhood clinics across the country where lawyers provide such help.

Three congressional committees have questioned the program's spending as has the corporation's own internal watchdog. The chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee is threatening to withhold future money if the corporation doesn't trim its extravagance.

"It's waste and abuse," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, citing the board's doubling of the meal money as an example. "At 200 percent, it seems to me what we would call in Iowa living high off the hog."

Don't worry. Senators Kennedy, Schumer, and Clinton will rise to defend LSC...liberals love this entity because it has been a reliable platform for attacking conservative policies (with the added benefit that it uses government dollars to do so).

The scrutiny of Legal Services' spending comes as the corporation says it doesn't have enough resources to meet many poor clients' needs.

Legal Services' own study found last October that for every client who receives service, one applicant is turned away for lack of resources. Since that study only counted those who contacted the program for assistance, the corporation said it likely underestimated the unmet need.

Yes, the liberals will no doubt manage to get LSC's budget increased because, with the help of their friends in the main stream media, they will turn this into another example of those mean, nasty, heartless Republicans trying to deprive the poor of a vital service. And the cowardly Republicans will cave in rather than stick to their principles. Hey, what's another couple of hundred million dollars...it's not like it's their money!


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