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Authors

Mark Soler

Abstract

President Nixon's first significant exposure to the Legal Services Program of the Office of Economic Opportunity may well have occurred on May 12, 1969, at a Cabinet meeting called to discuss food stamp legislation. As Secretary of Agriculture Clifford Hardin opened his presentation on food stamp benefits, he mentioned in passing that he was "at this moment" being sued by food stamp recipients who were represented by Legal Services lawyers. Immediately two other Cabinet members interrupted Hardin to complain that they too were being sued by recipients of federal benefits who were represented by these "government-funded" lawyers. A torreht of resentment and criticism burst forth from Secretary George Romney of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary Robert Finch of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and from other Department heads at the meeting, as the President allowed the discussion to range freely around the table. Finally, Donald Rumsfeld, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, attempted to deflect the complaints with a remark about the lawyers funded by his agency: "It looks like I'm the only one at this table not getting sued, and that's because they're my own lawyers."

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