The editorial on the Legal Services Corp. ["Legal Services Funding," Aug. 13] glossed over the scandal that plagued LSC this year by saying that while a General Accounting Office report suggested that there was an overreporting of cases, LSC officials have attributed that "to a series of bookkeeping errors."

The reason LSC lost votes and credibility this time around is that last year its officials allowed Congress to pass final funding for LSC on Oct. 21 based on false and inflated case totals. The case count was the top argument used by LSC in its pitch for a $17 million increase, which it received. Indeed, LSC President John McKay recognized the link between the huge case count and funding when he stated, "Case statistics play an essential role in the budget request and performance plan submitted by LSC to the United States Congress each year."

The "bookkeeping errors" explanation is laughable in light of audit results showing nearly 70 percent of closed cases at four programs to be invalid, 14,000 phone calls misrepresented as legal cases and one program overreporting its case totals by 800 percent. The GAO investigation confirmed "substantial errors" in case counting at the largest legal services programs, finding that less than half the claimed cases at the Baltimore and New York programs were legitimate.

The House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law holds its LSC oversight later this month. Perhaps these same officials can explain why case statistics that play such an "essential role" were so distorted and why the public, the media and Congress were not entitled to the truth.



National Legal and Policy Center