National Legal Center for the Public Interest

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{{#badges: Tobaccowiki}} National Legal Center for the Public Interest (NLCPI) describes itself as a law and educational foundation. According to its own website it was "created in 1975, [and] is committed to fostering knowledge about law and the administration of justice."

The website goes on to explain that "The Center contributes to the development of public debate and policy by providing the public and private sectors with timely information on key legal, legislative, regulatory, and economic issues of national importance. It does this through its educational publications and educational forums. The Center does not litigate." [1]

NLCPI follows the political agendas of its right-wing funders, vehemently opposing affirmative action and financing books such as Conservatives in Power: The Task of Governing by Terry Eastland.

They also founded and publish the "Public Interest Law Review", a heavily conservative publication "aimed at readers with an interest in the making and execution of public policy (law professors, political scientists, government officials, judges, and journalists who cover legal affairs)…[The] annual review discusses and debates issues of consequence for the public interest. Recent court decisions are covered and book reviews are included." [2]

It is at the core of a large network of right-wing, business-oriented Legal Centers funded by the Scaife, Coor, Bradley, Olin interests.

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Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.


This is a memberless organisation (consisting only of a Board). It was founded in 1975 as a 501(c)3 non-profit, based in Washington. The Pacific Legal Foundation (a right-wing, pro-business, legal group run by Ron Zumbrun) had conducted a study which concluded that the most effective way to counter the liberal, public-interest legal foundation model, was through an umbrella model creating a separate national coordinating entity for new PLFs in other regions. Initial funding was to come from J. Simon Fluor and Richard Mellon Scaife.

The PLF subsequently went on to establish the New England Legal Foundation, Great Plains Legal Foundation (now Landmark Legal Foundation), and Mountain States Legal Foundation.

But the NLCPI, in turn, was instrumental itself in spawning the Atlantic Legal Foundation (ex Mid Atlantic LF), Capital Legal Center, Mid-America Legal Foundation (not to be confused with Mid-Atlantic LF which became the Atlantic LC), and SouthEastern Legal Center.

The organisation's propaganda says that it doesn't involve itself in litigation as did many of its offspring, but at one time it did file suit (via Capital Legal Foundation - with $2 million of Scaife funding) on behalf of General Westmoreland against CBS News. However, more recently it has taken on the role of acting as coordinator and communications center for all of these business-oriented legal-lobbyist/activist groups.

Funds pass through this network of legal foundations from on to another, so it is impossible to say which is being funded from what source with complete accuracy. However these are all primarily supported by the Sarah Scaife & Carthage Foundations, together with money from the Coors (beer) and Fluor families, and from the Southern Pacific Co. The NLCPI itself was initially funded by the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.


The organisation has been led by Ernest B ("Ernie") Hueter, described in a Tobacco Institute report as a "one-time professional gag-writer", [3] who later became the Chairman and CEO of Interstate Brands (which makes bread, cakes and confectionary). NOTE: His name is often mis-spelled as Heuter.

In 1988 the organisation inherited a number of aides and associates of Ed Meese, the former Counsellor to President Reagan and Attorney General (also the cover-up expert over the Iran-contra affair). Meese had also been instrumental in co-founding (with other Reagan aides) the Pacific Legal Foundation when Reagan was State Governor: this was created as an attack-dog which could be directed (at a safe distance) against the Californian liberals and organisations like the Sierra Club.

The NLCPI is given grants for its day-to-day activities by large corporations such as Philip Morris/Kraft, UST, Alcoa and ExxonMobil, and it also receives special grants for specific activities on their behalf.

In 1990 Philip Morris contributed $2,500 to cost of publishing "Pernicious Ideas and Costly Consequences: The Intellectual Roots of the Tort Crisis" which was part of the tobacco (and other) industries long-running project to attack product liability laws, reduce punative damages, and limit class actions. Kraft General Foods (a PM subsidiary) also contributed $2,500 to other publications.

Philip Morris's 1991 budget reports that the legal foundation has a budget of "somewhat under a million dollars", which included a $10,000 contribution from Philip Morris/Kraft.

It tends to focus these days on its program of publications, and so acts more like a think-tank than a normal legal lobbyist.

Relevant articles

  • Right-wing firms pick up steam; a growing force in public interest work. [4]
  • Public Interest Legal Foundations. [5]





Legal Advisory Council

The Legal Advisory Council of the NLCPI, led by Eugene B. Meyer, functions as a support group for the NLCPI organization. The Council provides the Center with assistance in identifying projects and outside participants and additionally functions as a speakers bureau for the Center's activities. [6]



In addition to the corporations below, NLCPI has received grants from:

Past contributors include:

  • ALCOA Foundation
  • AT&T Foundation
  • Abbott Laboratories Fund
  • AlliedSignal Foundation
  • Amoco Foundation
  • Bell Atlantic Foundation
  • Bethlehem Steel Foundation
  • Chase Manhattan Foundation
  • Duke Power Company Foundation
  • Emerson Charitable Trust
  • Exxon Educational Foundation
  • Fannie Mae Foundation
  • Ford Motor Company Fund
  • GTE Foundation
  • H.J. Heinz Company Foundation
  • Kimberly-Clark Foundation
  • Lowe's Charitable & Educational Foundation
  • Merrill Lynch & Company Foundation
  • Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Foundation
  • Nabisco Foundation
  • Procter & Gamble Fund
  • Rockwell International Corporation Trust
  • Sprint Foundation
  • Rockwell International Corporation Trust
  • TRW Foundation
  • Textron Charitable Trust

Contact Information

1600 K Street, N.W.,
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: (202) 466-9360
Fax: (202) 466-9366

Related Resources

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