United Way gave $583,749 in 1997 to Greater Boston Legal Services

“Real estate industry” tops United Way donor list

Greater Boston Legal Services got $583,749 from the Boston area United Way in fiscal 1997, according to regional United Way’s annual report, making this tenant advocacy group the eighth biggest recipient of its funds among 188 organizations.

Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services (CASLS) got $48,671. All combined, eight legal advocacy groups in the Boston area got $840,386.
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Irony of ironies, it turns out that the Boston area “real estate industry” gave almost that whole amount — $720,000 — in one glitzy breakfast in October.

We discovered this real estate role from the December 27 Boston Globe Magazine, which featured on its cover Marian Heard, head of Boston’s United Way. Leading off the story inside was Heard’s role as host to “a breakfast for 450 of the real estate industry’s top donors” in the ballroom of the Boston Marriott Copley Place hotel.

Heard praised these real estate donors as “the biggest giving group in the United Way” and pushed them onward. “Next year, we want a million-dollar breakfast.”

No doubt the event gave everyone a “feel-good” experience and helped polish the real estate industry’s image. But the problem with United Way’s big, bureaucratic, multi-charity operation is that no one knows what goes on at the ground floor. Undoubtedly, these real estate donors do not realize that their own donations are stabbing themselves in the back — and stabbing small property owners in the back as well as destroying neighborhoods.

We are not alone in opposing legal services. In recent years, the U.S. Congress itself sharply cut its legal services funding and tried to restrict their activities, for the same reasons we object to them: (1) they lobby vigorously for a strongly leftist agenda that divides communities — rent control, transfer taxes, just-cause eviction, (2) they do class-action suits in an attempt to set public policy through litigation, (3) and they pursue client cases of very questionable value — like extending the rent-free occupancy of nonpaying tenants through legal delays and fraudulent code violation claims, tactics that devastate small owners and push lower-income neighborhoods into a downward spiral of abandoned housing, drugs, crime and poverty.

Legal services is all about fighting, and the people in these groups get their biggest kicks from antagonizing their opponents, all private citizens who they demonize and stereotype (among them, landlords), polarizing the community.

Legal services is not charity in the sense of helping the elderly get food or health care, helping kids get their shots, or helping teenagers stay off the streets. Legal services groups are also not at all like so many other United Way recipients — the Salvation Army, the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, etc. — all wholly private, donation-based groups.

Legal services is an arm of government (albeit a controversial one). It was created by the federal government and has always gotten substantial funding from federal, state and local governments and the court system (IOLTA). Why should scarce charity funds go to a government-funded activity while depriving truly needy private charity groups?

With all the clout of their big donations, we think these real estate industry donors can get United Way to make their legal services recipients (1) stop their legislative advocacy and lobbying and (2) end their hostile, anti-landlord approach by turning their client litigation into mediation. Mediation is a truly charitable, community-minded goal. Failing that, these donors should just give their money to one of several other multi-charity agencies, similar to United Way, who don’t fund legal services.

We support private charity. But legal services groups are neither private nor charitable. They are government-funded political advocacy groups.

See related article under Evictions: Crazy condo law is BACK-DOOR RENT CONTROL, which illustrates one concrete case of Legal Services political activism under the proudly flaunted name of the United Way.