Ben Blackburn, a former Republican congressman from Georgia who fought the creation of the Legal Services Corp. in Congress and still opposes the program, has been asked by the White House to serve on the board of the program, which provides free legal assistance to the poor.
Reached by telephone last night, Blackburn confirmed a report by The Atlanta Constitution that he is not interested in the job. According to the newspaper, Blackburn said the idea struck him as something close to kamikaze politics.
"I'm a red flag to some elements in the Congress," Blackburn told the Constitution. "I said, 'Fellows, you will have thrown down the gauntlet to the liberals in the Senate, because legal services to them is sacred ground.' "
The Senate has refused to confirm some of President Reagan's nominees to the board because of their past opposition to the legal services program.
If the Reagan administration were to nominate him, "we'd be declaring war," Blackburn said. He added that he is not interested in offering himself as ammunition for the fight.
The newspaper reported that Blackburn once "joked" with House colleagues about hanging public housing tenants, and later defended literacy tests to make sure voters are qualified to cast ballots.
But Blackburn said last night that the comments were intended as jokes, and occurred 10 years ago in private legislation-markup sessions. He called the newspaper story "much ado about nothing."