A former Secretary of Agriculture has now expressed concern about the obvious fraud involved in the multi-billion-dollar settlement of the black “farmer” and other lawsuits against the government — but why has everyone failed to note that all of these settlements are actually illegal under federal law?
When Congress was stampeded to pass unprecedented legislation in 1998 to facilitate the Pigford v. Glickman suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), some wise but unknown person included a limiting provision in that bill to minimize participation by phony claimants.
But, when the Clinton Administration agreed to a settlement of the case in 1999, that provision was carefully evaded in the consent decree, opening the door to massive fraud. Judge Paul Friedman, a Clinton appointee, quickly approved the deal, resulting in payment of more than $1 billion to nearly 16,000 black claimants, virtually none of whom met that statutory requirement.
Now the Obama regime is on the brink of settling a second Pigford suit for another $1.25 billion, and the proposed settlement again subverts and ignores the law to encourage and reward massive fraud — this time by as many as 80,000 prospective claimants. Obama recently signed legislation appropriating $1.15 billion more for black farmer claims, and his administration claims there are safeguards against fraud in the settlement.
In fact, not only has the Obama Justice Department facilitated fraud, but it has continued the practice of ignoring and subverting the statutory provision designed to stop fraud.
It’s a dirty little, seldom mentioned secret that Pigford was certified by Judge Friedman as a class action not for discrimination in making loans, but based on the allegation that plaintiffs’ civil rights complaints against USDA were mishandled by the department’s civil rights apparatus.
This being the case, the law passed to allow the suits limited participation to individuals who had “a nonemployment related complaint that was filed with the Department of Agriculture before July 1, 1997, and alleges discrimination at any time during the period beginning on January 1, 1981 and ending December 31, 1996 . . . .”
Now, a reasonable person would conclude that this created a very finite, verifiable pool of applicants, since any bureaucracy keeps careful track of the cases it handles, if only to justify current and additional staffing and resources. Any plaintiffs could be checked against the USDA record of discrimination complaints for that period, and those who had filed no complaints could be excluded from participation.
Not in Bill Clinton’s America! In the original 1999 settlement, USDA pleaded its own incompetence to help claimants avoid meeting this requirement, saying its records were in such a state of chaos that they could not be relied upon to filter out fraud.
Therefore, the original settlement openly invited fraud by allowing claimants to substitute “a communication from a class member directly to USDA, or to a member of Congress, the White House, or a state, local or federal official who forwarded the class member’s communication to USDA, asserting that USDA had discriminated against the class member on the basis of race in connection with a federal farm credit transaction or benefit application.” But there was never any requirement to prove that USDA was actually contacted by any third party and put on notice of the existence of a complaint.
And it gets worse: claimants who didn’t have such a letter were allowed to “submit an affidavit from a non-family member stating that he or she has personal knowledge that a discrimination complaint was filed and describing the way in which it was filed.” For 99 percent of the claims, the settlement eliminated the government’s right to challenge even the most obviously untrue affidavits. In the one percent of claims where they could be challenged, a significant number failed because, under penalty of perjury, the non-family member quickly admitted that there was no first-hand knowledge.
It can easily be proven than USDA Secretary Dan Glickman was wrong when he asserted that discrimination was “rampant” in his department — that his outburst was a blatant effort to aid the plaintiffs at a crucial moment in the legal process. So, how true was his claim about the civil rights records?
In 2005, the USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights advised a congressman: “Regrettably, the Office of Civil Rights underwent several organizational changes during 1981-1997, and the responsibility for handling program discrimination complaints was not centralized during that time. Thus, there is no central repository for data regarding program discrimination complaints that were filed between 1981-1997.”
This is not a claim that records do not exist, just that there is no central source. But is even USDA really so incompetent that it has been unable to gather together those documents in the 13 years since the Pigford lawsuit was filed? It’s far more likely that they never existed — because very few complaints were really filed.
In that letter, the Assistant Secretary went on to admit that the department had records of only 1,376 program-related civil rights complaints filed during entire 17-year period. And less than 1,000 of those involved the Farm Programs and Farm Loan Programs that are the statutorily limited subjects of Pigford and the other lawsuits.
Pages: 1 2