I have written several articles about the Pigford scandal. I found this article and it goes into more detail than others I’ve read, so I thought I would share it with those who are sick and tired of the taxpayers being screwed by the government who uses our tax dollars to pay for these scams.
On December 12, 1996, a handful of black farmers, led by John Boyd (founder of the “National Black Farmers Association”) gathered on the frozen grass of Lafayette Park across from the White House to protest what they claimed was widespread racial discrimination by the USDA against black farmers. This protest prompted President Clinton to pressure then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to investigate if these claims were true.
Glickman promptly suspended all government farm foreclosures pending the outcome of a ‘listening tour’ the following month (January 1997) in which Civil Rights Actions Teams (“CRAT”) traveled across the country gathering information on whether the black farmers’ claims were true. While the investigation discovered that only 205 claims (two-tenths of one percent) out of a total of 116,261 loans and crop payments issued by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency had triggered complaints by black farmers, the 120-page report (“Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture”) stated there was widespread discrimination against black farmers.
In August 1997, black farmer Timothy Pigford of North Carolina filed “Pigford v. Glickman” in the U.S. District Court. (A second lawsuit was filed by another black farmer from North Carolina named Cecil Brewington. Both cases were subsequently joined together as simply “Pigford”.) The suit initially listed 400 black farmers but the number quickly grew to more than 2,000.
Now it’s up to 94,000 claims. 400 to 94,000 and our government knows about this fraud.
In response to the lawsuit, the Department of Justice requested a stay (halt of the proceedings) in order to investigate each claim individually. But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman (a Clinton appointee) put a stop to the DOJ’s investigation by certifying “Pigford” as a class action lawsuit on October 9, 1998. The judge then set a trial date of February 1, 1999.
The certification of “Pigford” as a class action case made the USDA vulnerable to huge monetary payouts; however, the USDA had two means of preventing this: sovereign immunity and the statute of limitations.
The USDA was granted sovereign immunity by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act. But, unfortunately for the USDA, nearly two years earlier Clinton’s Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger had removed that immunity when he reinterpreted a different act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, to allow civil rights litigants to receive “monetary relief, including compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs, but not subject to any specific cap…”
This finding left the USDA with just one protection: the statute of limitations. The limit in the case of the USDA was two years, meaning a claimant had to file a lawsuit within two years of the alleged act of discrimination. However, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus – Rep. Eva Clayton (D-NC) – authored a request for a waiver (tailoring the request to apply specifically to the “Pigford” case) and in 1998 Congress approved the waiving of the two year limit in regards to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
This waiver, however, has subsequently been found to be unconstitutional, as shown by the United States Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in “Stogner v. California”. However, because “Pigford” is supported by powerful interests in Congress, to date, no effort has been made to use that Supreme Court ruling to overturn the time waiver in “Pigford”.
Shortly after losing its waiver protection, the USDA announced it would settle and Judge Friedman issued a consent decree on April 14, 1999.
At this point, it is worthwhile to study the language Judge Friedman used in his consent decree. “Forty acres and a mule. As the Civil War drew to a close, the United States government created the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide assistance to former slaves. The government promised to sell or lease to farmers parcels of unoccupied land and land that had been confiscated by the Union during the war, and it promised the loan of a federal government mule to plow that land.” Judge Friedman then relates how the government subsequently broke that promise, thus instilling amongst African Americans “a well-founded and deep-seated mistrust of the USDA. A mistrust borne of a long history of racial discrimination. A mistrust that is well-deserved.”
The term “forty acres and a mule” is the universally accepted language denoting slave reparations. By using such language, Friedman made it clear he viewed “Pigford” as no longer a case involving discrimination against black farmers but instead as one now involving discrimination against every African American citizen. As a result, the true cost of this lawsuit would potentially be not in the billions but trillions of dollars, the amount necessary to reimburse African Americans for a “long history of racial discrimination”.
Judge Friedman divided the consent decree into two parts: “Track A” and “Track B”. Track A claimants were limited to $50,000 apiece, plus relief from outstanding loans and tax liability; but the proof of discrimination was exceptionally low. Track B claimants had no cap on claims; however, they were required to produce extensive documentation of discrimination. (Not surprisingly, 99% of claimants opted for Track A.)
Once the consent degree was finalized, Judge Friedman released $450,000 for advertisement of the “Pigford” settlement. “Quarter-page ads were ordered in 26 general circulation newspapers and 100 black-oriented papers over a two-week period in January 1999. A full-page ad was placed in all editions of TV Guide for an 18-state region, a half-page in Jet magazine, 44 commercials on Black Entertainment Television, and 18 on the Cable News Network.”
Within a month, 15,000 telephone inquiries were received by the USDA in response to these ads. By 2002, the number would peak at 138,911 inquiries for requests forms to file a claim – nearly seven times the amount of black farmers in America.
It was at this time that rumors of malfeasance began to arise. The Oregon contractor, Poorman-Douglas, hired by the USDA, reported that some African Americans “tried to certify young children as aggrieved parties. Husband-wife couples applied separately in hopes of double compensation for the same act. And a number of deceased persons “claimed” their reward, with surviving family and relatives filing on their behalf.”
In another instance, an individual called Daniel Anew (an administrator at Elizabeth City State University) attended a meeting in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1999 where he heard about Track A of the “Pigford” lawsuit. Mr. Anew thereupon hooked up with a fellow university official named Emma Brooks (who also was not a farmer) and the both of them began filing false claims which ultimately totaled $400,000. The scam was subsequently discovered and both were sentenced to prison time and restitution in 2005.
In one tragic case, the mutilated corpse of a man named Clovis Reed was discovered in Simpson County, Mississippi in 2003. Reed had been murdered by Kathleen Nelson and her boyfriend, Roosevelt Walker, after they discovered that Reed was a government informant who was about to expose Nelson and Walker’s embezzlement of Track A money which both had received in “Pigford”.