Attorney General Eric Holder faced questions from Iowa Republican Steve King on May 15th about the fraudulent Pigford black farmers settlement and told the congressman that steps had been taken to limit fraud.
However, the Attorney General’s Department of Justice created similar settlements for women and Hispanic/Latino farmers using the same low standard of proof that led to so much fraud in the original black farmers settlement, undermining his objection.
Rep. King asked AG Holder to comment on the recent front-page New York Times story about the fraud, and the Attorney General said:
I think that the article missed a few things; that there are steps that we have in place to limit the amount of fraud that goes on there, both in terms of getting sworn statements from claimants, from doing audits, there are a variety of things we have in place to ensure that the kind of fraud that was described in that article… I think the article made the fraud seem more widespread than it really was.
As the New York Times article and Breitbart News reporting has made abundantly clear, the Obama/Holder Department of Justice is heavily involved in the farmers’ settlement fraud. The Holder DOJ, including former Obama campaign California co-chair turned Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, worked closely with the USDA to create systems that allow and encourage undetectable fraud. Both West and Holder refused to speak with New York Times reporters as they spent months working on the story.
As the Times reported:
From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination.
Yet those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew. Though the government has started requiring more evidence to support some claims, even now people who say they were unfairly denied loans can collect up to $50,000 with little documentation.
The Government Accountability Office looked at the settlement in 2012 and pointed out that there was, in fact, no mechanism whatsoever to confirm statements made by people who were trying to collect the $50,000 “attempted to farm” checks. The report said:
For example, by the terms of the settlement agreement, most claims must be evaluated based solely on the information submitted by the claimants and, as a result, the adjudicator of these claims has no way of independently verifying that information.
- “By terms of the settlement agreement” shows the fraud is baked right in. This is a feature, not a bug.
- “most claims must be evaluated based solely on the information submitted by the claimants” means that a majority of claims are judged based only on statements by the person who stands to collect a $50,000 check.
- “adjudicator of these claims has no way of independently verifying that information” means that there’s no way for the person judging the claim to check for fraud.
Holder, who oversees the FBI, told Congressman King that the New York Times had overstated the fraud, ignoring the troubling claim by the Times that FBI itself knew about many fraud accusations that it never followed up on. As the Times wrote:
A fraud hot line to the Agriculture Department’s inspector general rang off the hook. The office referred 503 cases involving 2,089 individuals to the F.B.I.
The F.B.I. opened 60 criminal investigations, a spokesman said, but prosecutors abandoned all but a few for reasons including a lack of evidence or proof of criminal intent. Former federal officials said the bar for a successful claim was so low that it was almost impossible to show criminality.
Nor has the FBI done anything to stop the seminars on how to commit undetectable fraud given by people like Thomas Burrell, who was exposed by Breitbart News over two years ago at a press conference attended by Rep. Steve King. The Times article also highlighted Burrell’s activities:
On a recent Thursday at the Greater Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, several hundred African-Americans listened intently as Mr. Burrell told them they could reap $50,000 each, merely by claiming bias. He left out the fact that black men are no longer eligible, and that black women are eligible only if they suffered gender, not racial, bias.
“The Department of Agriculture admitted that it discriminated against every black person who walked into their offices,” he told the crowd. “They said we discriminated against them, but we didn’t keep a record. Hello? You don’t have to prove it.”
In fact, he boasted, he and his four siblings had all collected awards, and his sister had acquired another $50,000 on behalf of their dead father.
She cinched the claim, he said to a ripple of laughter, by asserting that her father had whispered on his deathbed, “I was discriminated against by U.S.D.A.”
“The judge has said since you all look alike, whichever one says he came into the office, that’s the one to pay — hint, hint,” he said. “There is no limit to the amount of money, and there is no limit to the amount of folks who can file.”
He closed with a rousing exhortation: “Let’s get the judge to go to work writing them checks! They have just opened the bank vault.”
The Attorney General told Congressman King that he read that New York Times article that describes Thomas Burrell telling a church full of people that “they have just opened the bank vault,” but he claims that the article overstated the fraud. The vault doors have been opened by President Obama in the biggest, most underreported scandal of his administration, and Eric Holder is standing guard, making sure they stay open.