Congressman Steve King has been trying to expose the fraud-ridden Pigford settlement payouts for six years. Despite billions of dollars in payments, many based on dubious claims of discrimination, the mainstream media had turned a blind eye to Pigford. That is, until last week when the liberal New York Times ran an extensive expose of this scheme on the front page.
The original Pigford settlements came from a 1997 class action lawsuit filed by Timothy Pigford and 400 black farmers. They claimed the U.S. Department of Agriculture had discriminated against them. The government agreed to pay each plaintiff $50,000 to settle the claims.
In 2007, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama sponsored a bill to help more minority plaintiffs file claims of discrimination by the USDA. In 2008, Congress approved $100 million more to settle additional claims. This litigation became known as Pigford II. Then in 2010, Congress appropriated another $1.15 billion. The number of settlements has now grown from 400 to 94,000. The total cost could reach $4.4 billion, the Times reported.
In 2007, Congressman King held a lengthy discussion with a top administrator in the Pigford settlement. King says that administrator told him that out of those 94,000 claims, only 50 were legitimate. King sponsored an amendment that aimed to block future Pigford payouts, but it failed to pass.
“This individual handled many of the cases, talked with many of the claimants of Pigford, went through many of the files and no one could probably look through all of them,” King said.
The payouts have extended way beyond black farmers. They are also going to Hispanics, Native Americans and females. All are receiving compensation for alleged discrimination by the USDA. Many never even filed claims. Many were never farmers.
The threshold to receive a payment was as low as planting vegetables in the backyard and having a relative support that claim. But the government spigot has been opened and money is pouring out.
At the center of the controversy is former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama all play a key role in this massive government giveaway.
“Tom Vilsack has been an advocate for handing out money to minorities through this process,” King said.
Congressman King claims language in a bill to cap all Pigford payments at $100 million has been subverted by the Obama administration, with Vilsack leading the charge.
“Tom Vilsack twisted that 180 degrees from the statutory limits that are there and worked with Eric Holder to go hand out more money to the Pigford claimants, even though much of it is fraud. Most of it is fraud. I would not say all of it is fraud,” King said.
Congressman King believes the payouts to minorities are geared toward helping Democrats get elected and stay in office.
“What they’re doing is reaching into the public treasury, borrowing money from China, to payoff minority groups. What does that do? That creates monolithic voting blocs among minorities,” King said. “We know they’ve done that with African-Americans, clearly and cynically. Now you’ll see that President Obama gets about 96% of the African-American vote. They’re seeking to do the same thing with the Hispanic vote. This payoff is part of it. Calling Republicans racist is another part of that strategy.”
The funding for the Pigford payouts comes from the U.S. government’s Judgment Fund. Congress has no oversight over the Judgment Fund. The Department of Justice has the leniency to dip into it whenever needed to settle court disputes. So, with no congressional oversight and the mainstream media turning a blind eye, billions of dollars can be paid out of the government trough without the public ever knowing its happening.
“They use the money from the Judgment Fund to payoff their political allies,” King said.
However, the New York Times article from last week opened some eyes. Congressman King hopes that article is the impetus for a public outcry to finally shutdown scams like the Obama administration’s Pigford payouts. For six years, Congressman King and conservative bloggers like the late Andrew Breitbart were the only ones working to expose the Pigford scandal.
“This spotlight of the New York Times, an article that I knew was coming for some time, is a vindication article,” King said. “It’s a vindication of Andrew Breitbart, who was great partner in bringing this out. I believe I do deserve credit for bringing this forward and connecting Andrew Breitbart with the policy, but he had the heart and the perseverance to trudge onward.”
Congressman King promises to trudge onward as well. He wants to hold congressional hearings on Pigford. He wants Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder to level with the American people about what appears to be a massive case of government fraud.
“We need to do investigations and I’ll be talking to the relevant committee chairs. They already know I’m looking at this,” King said. “By the way, I chair the subcommittee that has oversight over the USDA.”
That is likely bad news for Tom Vilsack.
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