Long before anyone knew the name TImothy Pigford in 2011, Rainbow Push Coalition cvil rights activist Jesse Jackson went to Washington D.C. to discuss with Senate Democratic leadership about Mr. Pigford’s 1997 discrimination lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture. According to a Washington Times editorial last week:
Race hustlers are shaking down taxpayers for payoffs, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is falling for the scam. The controversy involves a discrimination claim against the USDA for allegedly denying loans because of race. A federal judge approved payments of $50,000 or more based on low levels of proof. This encouraged a mad scramble for cash based on false claims.
The “Pigford Settlement,” an agreement that came out of the original 1997 lawsuit by Timothy Pigford and 400 southern black farmers, resulted from some apparently legitimate instances of discrimination. However, plaintiffs’ lawyers got involved, and the number of supposedly aggrieved farmers grew exponentially. Eventually, more than 94,000 claims were filed even though the U.S. Census Bureau never counted more than 33,000 black farmers in America during the years in question.
In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama began working to pass legislation providing even more money for a whole new class of claimants via “Pigford II.” This push ignored fraud in and several convictions over the original settlement, but Mr. Obama was advised his legislation could help him in a Democratic presidential primary fight against then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. As president, Mr. Obama rammed this new, $4.6 billion boondoggle through Congress during last year’s post-election, lame-duck session.
For months, the liberal Huffington Post and Andrew Breitbart’s libertarian BigGovernment.com have reported growing numbers of Pigford fraud allegations.
On August 3, 2010 Rainbow Push Coalition’s Rev. Jesse Jackson visited Capitol Hill following the controversial firing of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod. I asked Rev. Jackson why he was Washington that day, and he told me he was there to speak to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat and Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat. Mr. Jackson identified an individual traveling with him as someone who was part of the 1997 lawsuit.
“We’re here to talk to Mr. Reid about the settlement for the black farmers and with it by extension the native American farmers,” said Rev. Jackson. “They’ve gone through tremendous strain and hardship and have been driven from their land by terror, held up by the Department of Agriculture for so many years. Now they’ve won the settlement having gone through the processes, and they still can’t get their money. They were with Senator Reid and Senator Durbin just now about whether the remaining procedural steps were necessary on a settlement.”
Reverend Jackson pointed out that Ms. Sherrod’s July 2010 story helped jumpstart the settlement talks again in Washington, telling me “Her case serves to illuminate the rural crisis otherwise where there was no light.”