GAO received a complaint that a legal services corporation grantee was holding conferences across the Nation with representatives of church, labor, community, and minority organizations for the purpose of network and coalition building in possible violation of Federal law. It was alleged that the grantee offered to pay the travel expenses of those needing assistance, and the complainant reported that the conference discussions and training emphasized methods of developing a broad understanding and support of farmworker issues and the effect that the termination of the Legal Services Program would have on the farmworker coalition. The complainant believed that such activities violated statutory provisions prohibiting the use of Federal funds for grass roots lobbying campaigns and for the organization of associations and federations. Upon a review of the material supplied, GAO found no evidence that conference representatives urged members of the public to communicate with Members of Congress regarding their support or defeat of legislation pending before that body. The evidence presented indicated that the program was not formally organizing an entity, but was merely establishing a communications network between existing organizations, and these activities are authorized under applicable legislation. GAO also found that a portion of each conference was, in fact, devoted to providing legitimate legal service activities. Therefore, GAO was unable to conclude that any Federal law had been violated.
Skip to Highlights