As I’ve written about before, when Iowa Congressman Steve King recently tried to stop funding for the fraud infested Pigford settlement he was opposed by a number of his fellow Republicans. At least one of them — Florida’s Allen West — has admitted that his vote was “a mistake” while others such as California’s Darrell Issa have so far remained silent.
Now Missouri Congressman Billy Long has gone on the record with one of his constituents about why he wanted to continue funding a bill that doesn’t actually help the black farmers that it was designed to aid in the first place.
Here’s what he said in a recent letter…
Thank you for contacting me regarding Roll Call Vote number 444, which addressed the Pigford discrimination case at the United States Department of Agriculture; I appreciate hearing from you.
As you know, the amendment offered by Congressman Steve King (R-IA) would have prohibited funding for payments relating to the final settlement of claims from the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, also known as the Pigford case. I voted against this amendment, along with several other Republicans, because stopping payments could increase the risk for additional litigation. I firmly believe I must take every step I can to curb costly litigation, which hurts businesses and job creation in this country. I also believe I must take every step to slow out-of-control government spending at every turn.
A fear of “additional litigation” is a horrible reason to support Pigford. In fact, one of the main reasons that it’s important to stop Pigford II as soon as possible is because of the additional litigation that it supports.
The mastermind behind Pigford is attorney Al Pires. (If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Pires, please watch this video of Pires and Andrew Breitbart mixing it up on the John Stossel show a couple of months ago.) Around a decade ago when the settlement was first getting underway, Pires described Pigford as a template for other similar legislation — not surprisingly, that’s exactly what it’s turned out to be with new settlements underway for women, Hispanic, Latinos and Native American farmers. All of these settlements have the same low barrier to entry that caused the fraud in Pigford, namely the use of the “attempted to farm” standard that requires almost no proof in order to receive a settlement check.
Furthermore, there is reason to believe that the current Pigford settlement will have to be expanded into a Pigford III.
The original Pigford case was a period of discrimination from 1981 to 1996. The other settlements for women, Hispanic, Latino Native Americans all cover the period of discrimination from 1981 and 2000 but ominously, the recent civil rights report created by the USDA concluded that discrimination still exists at the agency. So the notion of new litigation that extends the period to 2008 or beyond is entirely possible.
It’s widely acknowledged that discrimination the USDA existed, particularly at the county committee level. Ten years down the road, the Pigford legislation hasn’t stopped that discrimination nor has it helped many of the actual farmers who were affected by it. Instead, what it’s done has provided a backdoor stimulus package to key Democratic Party constituencies while letting some Republicans avoid being called racist, sexist and farmerphobic.
The very notion that such a flawed settlement should continue to go forward in order to stop other legislation is as nutty as harvest time in Plains, Georgia — that’somehow that’s Congressman Billy Long and a number of other Republicans seem to believe,.
Please let your local congressman know that “additional legislation” is exactly why Pigford needs to be stopped.