Misuse of Appropriated Funds by the Legal Services Corporation for Lobbying and Political Activities

B-202116: Published: May 1, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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GAO was requested to investigate the possible misuse of appropriated funds by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) for lobbying and political activities. Memoranda submitted indicated that LSC developed a detailed plan designed to urge members of the public interested in its legal assistance programs to contact members of Congress and to communicate their support of LSC reauthorization legislation and LSC appropriations being considered by Congress. In early 1980, LSC formed a coalition with the Project Advisory Group, a national organization of legal services programs, to direct a lobbying campaign in support of LSC reauthorization and appropriation legislation. This activity violates the antilobbying statutory and appropriation restrictions. Because LSC regulations and current policies authorize recipients to expend appropriated funds for prohibited lobbying activities in derogation of the restrictions, GAO did not think the government would be successful in attempting to recover the illegally expended sums from the recipients. Because it is not authorized to settle the accounts of LSC, GAO was unable to take exception to these illegal payments. However, LSC was notified that GAO was advising the appropriate House and Senate committees that LSC is expending federal funds in violation of statutory and appropriations restrictions. GAO also reviewed the memoranda for possible violations of restrictions in the authorizing legislation on political activities by employees of LSC or its recipients. These restrictions are designed to prohibit LSC or its recipients from assisting a political party or a candidate for public office. The GAO review did not uncover any evidence of such violations.