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December 20, 2006
End Of The Country Club At LSC ... Maybe

Three months ago, I wrote about the financial shenanigans at the Legal Services Corporation, which provides low-income Americans with legal assistance. The LSC had used its Congressional mandate and ever-increasing budgets to get itself some fancy Georgetown digs and treat its lawyers to limousines for cross-town traffic in DC instead of cabs. They leased the new offices specifically for the spacious meeting rooms, but instead held their conferences in resort destinations like San Juan.

The days of wine and roses (and expensive Death by Chocolate desserts) have come to an end, however:

The $13 per person "high tea" service and $12 bagel breaks will be gone from the January directors meeting of the government's legal aid program for the poor. And the meeting will be held at the headquarters conference room rather than the upscale hotel used in the past.

After severe criticism from Congress, stinging reports from a financial watchdog and several articles by The Associated Press, the Legal Services Corp. has decided to temper the expensive tastes of its top officials while poor clients are turned away for lack of program funds.

Internal memos, provided to the AP voluntarily by a Legal Services official, made clear there would be no more $70 lunches and $14 "Death By Chocolate" desserts at board meetings.

Only in special circumstances would there be a repeat of hotel costs that shot through the government's room rate ceiling, limousine services and first-class air travel.

The new agreement at the LSC requires them to use the same guidelines as federal agencies on travel and entertainment costs. The LSC is an independent non-profit, which has allowed LSC executives to avoid the restrictions in the past. However, Congress provides all of its funding, and Congress got embarrassed by their excesses once the AP discovered them earlier this year.

So there will be no more $27 lunch breaks, no more $400 limousine rides for meetings within the DC area, and no more double meal allowances when executives dine together. San Juan will have to learn to live without LSC executives. Hotels will have to find other people to use their suites.

Now if we can just get them to quit padding their caseload reports at budget time, we'll make real progress in reforming the LSC.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 20, 2006 5:08 AM

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