National Legal and Policy Center

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The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) is a right-leaning 501(c)(3) non-profit group that monitors and reports on the ethics of public officials, supporters of liberal causes, and labor unions in the United States. Among the NLPC's more high-profile targets have been Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), U.S. Representative John Murtha (D-PA), U.S. Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) (while she was First Lady), Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The Center files complaints with government agencies, legally challenges what they view as abuse and corruption, and publishes reports. The NLPC has been praised by right-wing media personalities such as radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh. The NLPC is described as conservative in nature.[1] The NLPC's current president is Peter Flaherty.

According to the Center's mission statement, it:

promotes a single standard of ethics in public life through research, education and legal action.

We do not believe that ethics are advanced through more laws or 'better guidelines,' even as existing ones are ignored. We don't believe the problem is with too few laws, or with too much freedom, but with men and women. We believe the missing ingredients are character, morality and common sense.

We recognize that the bigger the government, the more opportunities for corruption; and the more intervention in the economy, the more reason for special interests to seek influence. We believe that the best way to promote ethics is to reduce the size of government.[2]

The NLPC was founded in 1991 "to promote ethics, and to give the Code [of Ethics for Government] the visibility it deserves". It currently operates four projects: the Government Integrity Project, the Legal Services Accountability Project, the Organized Labor Accountability Project, and the Corporate Integrity Project.


Government Integrity Project[edit]

The Government Integrity Project exists to "'blow the whistle' on government officials and interest groups engaged in questionable activities". The project has raised questions about many individuals and organizations, often filing complaints against them with various government agencies and Congressional Ethics Committees.

Additionally, NLPC utilizes the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the First Amendment as the basis for campaign finance reform.

NLPC is probably best known for exposing Boeing's tanker lease scandal. In 2003, NLPC upended the $30 billion plan for the Air Force to lease, rather than buy, 100 mid-air refueling aircraft. The lease-plan was killed, saving taxpayers at least $4 billion. NLPC unearthed evidence of cozy dealings between Darleen Druyun and Boeing. Druyun was the Air Force official who negotiated the deal and who went to work for Boeing shortly thereafter. In a Complaint to the Pentagon Inspector General, which resulted in a front-page Wall Street Journal story, NLPC detailed how the official sold her home to a Boeing executive and that Boeing had hired her daughter. In the wake of NLPC's revelations, Boeing CFO Michael Sears was fired and Boeing CEO Phil Condit resigned. Sears and Druyun served prison terms in 2005.

NLPC is highly critical of billionaire George Soros. It has criticized Soros for donating money to the Lynne Stewart Legal Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, and "groups that promote illegal immigration".[3] In 2004, the NLPC filed a complaint against Soros with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging "extensive apparent violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act".[4]

The Project filed similar complaints against Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Reverend Al Sharpton, and Jim Moran (D-VA).

In early February 2004, NLPC filed complaints with the FEC [5] for election law violations during his 2004 presidential campaign. A conciliation agreement made public by NLPC on April 19, 2009, described $509,188 in campaign-related expenses on Sharpton's American Express card. His campaign committee paid $121,996, leaving $385,192 in illegal payments from other sources, including $65,000 from unknown sources. NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm had accused Sharpton of running an "off the books" presidential campaign. Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) agreed to pay a $285,000 "civil penalty" for his campaign election law violations.[6]

In 1998, the NLPC asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Representative Jon D. Fox (R-PA) for "the appearance of impropriety in the granting of legislative favors in connection with an illegal loan".[7]

The NLPC alleged, based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner David Aaron Kessler "routinely ... overcharged the taxpayer" for taxi rides. The NPLC further alleged "that the expense reimbursements are symptomatic of a larger pattern of FDA corruption under Kessler." Kessler ran the FDA under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.[8]

The charges against Sean "Puffy" Combs stem from his youth voter education and mobilization project Citizen Change, whose slogan, "Vote or die" is alleged to be a "veiled marketing effort for his clothing brand". The NLPC further alleges that Citizen Change "may also have violated rules of nonpartisanship."[9]

NLPC criticism of Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV) focused on "250 misrepresentations and omissions" in his 2000 financial disclosure reports.[10] However, the NLPC refused to release its full report and Congressman Mollohan has since released chronological documentation of his investments and sources of the money invested.

The NLPC asked the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee to investigate a land deal involving Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in 2007.[11]

Legal Services Accountability Project[edit]

The purpose of the Legal Services Accountability Project is to "end taxpayer funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC)."[12]

The NLPC accused the New York Legal Aid Society of using a $171,000 grant from the September 11th Fund to represent persons in detention accused of terrorism, a claim disputed by the Legal Aid Society.

Corporate Integrity Project[edit]

The Corporate Integrity Project as stated on the NLPC website "seeks to promote integrity in corporate governance, including honesty and fair play in relationships with shareholders, employees, business partners and customers." It does so by:

  • Asserting that the social responsibility of the corporation is to defend and advance the interests of the people who own the company, the shareholders.
  • True responsibility is fidelity to one's own mission, not someone else's, or someone else's political agenda.
  • Exposing influence peddling on public officials by corporations, which inevitably is the result of high levels of government spending and intervention in the marketplace.
  • Combating practices that undermine the free enterprise system, including philanthropic giving to groups hostile to a free economy.[13]

The Corporate Integrity Project has led campaigns against Boeing, CBS/Viacom, Fannie Mae, MCI/Worldcom, and Subway for practices ranging from large corporate scandals to anti-American campaigns. The scandals they have unearthed have led to the firing of Boeing CFO Michael M. Sears, the resignation of Boeing CEO Phil Condit, and prison terms in 2005 for both Darleen Druyun and Michael Sears.

Lawsuit v. Hillary Healthcare Task Force[edit]

NLPC was a plaintiff in the successful 1993 lawsuit to open the meetings and records of Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care task force. Although the lawsuit was about the secrecy of the task force, it resulted in controversy for the task force itself and helped undermine support for task force’s eventual proposals.[14]

The effort to open the task force received positive editorial support not only from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times, but also from the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today. In her 2004 book, Living History, Hillary Rodham Clinton called the lawsuit “a deft political move, designed to disrupt our work on health care and foster an impression with the public and the news media that we were conducting ‘secret’ meetings.” In his 2003 book, The Clinton Wars, Former White House aide Sidney Blumenthal wrote that NLPC had drawn “first blood” in the health care fight. On February 24, 1993, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the six Cabinet members serving on the task force were sued under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by NLPC, along with two other groups, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the American Council for Health Care Reform. FACA requires government task forces to conduct its affairs in public if non-government employees, or “outsiders,” take part.[15]

Robert Pear of the New York Times reported the next day that, "Mrs. Clinton, a longtime supporter of liberal causes and ‘public interest law,’ might be hoist with her own petard," and quoted NLPC Peter Flaherty, "The regime of openness in government has been built by a lot of people sympathetic to Hillary Clinton. Now she would just sweep away those statutes because they are inconvenient to her."[16] In a March 3, 1993 deposition, task force director Ira Magaziner claimed that all participants in the health care task force were government employees, which turned out to be false. Even if the courts ruled that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s participation would not trigger FACA, the presence of other "outsiders" would. Magaziner took no action to correct the record.

On March 10, 1993, Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the task force had to open its meetings to the plaintiffs and the media.[17] The New York Times called the ruling a "rebuff to the President." USA Today reported it was "embarrassing." In reality, it was a split decision. Lamberth ruled that the "official" members of the task force, meaning the First Lady and the Cabinet Secretaries who comprised its membership, could not meet in secret because Clinton was not a government employee. But Lamberth also ruled that all the other people working on the plan, who were organized into "sub-groups," could continue to work in secret, because FACA was never meant to apply to staff.

That evening, ABC's Nightline hosted a debate between NLPC President Peter Flaherty and White House aide George Stephanopoulos. The ruling had exploded the larger issue, namely Hillary's role in the White House. Flaherty said that members of Congress "were walking on eggshells" when Hillary was around. He also said to host Ted Koppel, "What a lot of Americans are worried about, Ted, is that we now have an American version of Imelda Marcos, wielding vast influence behind the scenes, with little accountability to the American people."

Lamberth's ruling was appealed by the White House, and was overturned on June 22, 1993 after the task force had supposedly already disbanded on May 30.[18] Justice Department lawyers argued that since Hillary Rodham Clinton "functions in both a legal and practical sense as part of the government," her participation in the task force should not trigger FACA. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed. But The Appeals Court also opened the door for the discovery of Ira Magaziner's false representations. The judges asked Judge Lamberth to go back and determine the composition of the working groups, a move that gave the plaintiffs access to task force documents.

Eventually, 250 boxes containing 500,000 documents would be released. When they were reviewed, not only did they show that the task force had twice as many participants as the 511 people claimed by the Administration, but that many of them were not government employees at all, but lobbyists and private individuals representing a host of special interests.

On December 21, 1994, Judge Lamberth accused Magaziner of lying and asked Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder for a criminal investigation. Reno announced on March 3, 1995 that she would not appoint an independent prosecutor. On August 3, 1995, Eric Holder announced that he too would not prosecute Magaziner.

Boeing Tanker Deal Scandal[edit]

NLPC exposed the Boeing tanker deal scandal, sending two Boeing executives to prison, and saving taxpayers at least $4–5 billion. The repercussions of the scandal are still being felt as the contract was put back out to bid. Boeing and a Northrop/Airbus consortium are currently vying for the contract.

On October 6, 2003, NLPC filed a formal Complaint with the Pentagon Inspector General and the Defense Department Criminal Investigative Service, which was the basis for a front-page Wall Street Journal article the next day.[19]

Based on NLPC’s original investigation, the Complaint detailed how Defense Department procurement officer Darleen Druyun, while still at the Pentagon, sold her house to a Boeing executive who was also working on the tanker deal. The Complaint also described how her daughter has worked for Boeing since 2001.

The Complaint specifically raised the possibility that Druyun had negotiated employment with Boeing while still at the Pentagon. Federal law prohibits defense acquisition officials from discussing jobs with companies unless they recuse themselves from contract decisions involving those companies.

On November 24, 2003, Druyun and Boeing Chief Financial Officer Michael Sears were fired.[20] One week later, Boeing Chief Executive Office Phil Condit resigned.[21]

On October 1, 2004, Druyun was sentenced to nine months in prison by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. On February 18, 2005, Sears was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $250,000 by U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Lee.[22]

According to court documents, Sears and Druyun secretly met in a private conference room at Orlando International Airport On October 17, 2002, to discuss her future plans. Druyun told Sears she had already agreed to take a job with another company, but said she would consider an offer from Boeing. Druyun and Sears would later agree via e-mail to tell investigators they had not discussed her potential employment until early November 2002, after Druyun had signed a letter recusing herself from all Boeing matters before the Air Force. In subsequent e-mails and phone conversations, Sears implored Druyun to "hang tough" as investigators began questioning her about how she got her Boeing job.

Funding[edit]

NLPC's revenues for the fiscal year ending 12/31/11 were $1,236,839 against expenses of $1,242,020.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Conservative Watchdog Group Targeted Rangel", Susan Crabtree, The Hill, 2-09-2009.
  2. ^ NPLC. "Our Mission". Accessed June 14, 2006.
  3. ^ Peter Flaherty, speaking on The O'Reilly Factor. "Broadcast Transcript -The O'Reilly Factor", May 20, 2005. Accessed June 14, 2006.
  4. ^ NPLC Press Release. "NLPC Notified That Federal Election Commission Will Take Up Complaint Against George Soros", January 31, 2005. Accessed June 14, 2006
  5. ^ Complaint filed February 2, 2004 before the Federal Election Commission, MUR 5408; Amended Complaint filed February 6, 2004 before the Federal Election Commission, MUR 5408
  6. ^ FEC Conciliation Agreement, filed February 19, 2009
  7. ^ NLPC letter to Rep. James V. Hansen, Chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. "Re: Complaint Regarding the Filing of False Financial Disclosure Statements with the House of Representatives", May 12, 1998. Accessed June 14, 2006.
  8. ^ Ethics Watch. "Kessler Announces Resignation NLPC Exposes Reimbursement Overcharges", Winter 1997. Accessed June 14, 2006.
  9. ^ Wilson, Eric. "Tracking the Scent of Self-Promotion", New York Times, November 24, 2005. Accessed June 14, 2006.
  10. ^ Messina, Lawrence. "Congressman Offers Papers to Rebut Claims". Forbes, June 13, 2006. Accessed June 14, 2006.
  11. ^ JuneauEmpire.com. "Alaska editorial: Corruption probes of Alaska U.S. delegation an East Coast power play"
  12. ^ NLPC. "Legal Services Accountability Project". Accessed June 14, 2006.
  13. ^ NLPC. "Corporate Integrity Project".
  14. ^ The Washington Times, Thursday, February 25, 1993 "Sunshine Suit Cites Hillary," [access no longer available]
  15. ^ APPS, et al. v. Clinton, 813 F. Supp. (D.D.C. 1993)
  16. ^ The New York Times, Saturday, March 6, 1993, Hillary Clinton's Health Role Disputed
  17. ^ APPS, et al. v. Clinton, 813 F. Supp. 82 (D.D.C. 1993)
  18. ^ APPS, et al. v. Clinton, 997 F.2d 898 (DC Cir. 1993)
  19. ^ Complaint filed October 6, 2003 with Inspector General, Department of Defense and Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service,"Re: Allegations of Misconduct Regarding the Boeing Lease Proposal"
  20. ^ See Boeing News Release issued November 24, 2003 "Boeing Dismisses Two Executives for Unethical Conduct"
  21. ^ See Boeing News Release issued December 1, 2003 "Boeing Announces Resignation of Phil Condit; Lew Platt Named Non-Executive Chairman, Harry Stonecipher Named President and CEO"
  22. ^ See Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 19, 2005 "Ex-Boeing executive jailed for 4 months"
  23. ^ National Legal and Policy Center IRS Form 990, available at www.guidestar.com

External links[edit]