Saturday, April 27, 2013

Andrew Breitbart Vindicated: Liberal NYTimes Writes Expose On Pigford Scandal

As a byproduct of the Shirley Sherrod video showing members of the NAACP applaud her admission to sending a white farmer to "one of his own" the late Andrew Breitbart managed to come across something that was hidden below the surface. Her link in what was known as the Pigford settlement.

Breitbart spoke to bloggers at length on the scandal at CPAC 2011.  Also with him that day was Lee Stranahan, who had been investigating this story while writing at the Huffington Post.

"It's an amazing can of worms that goes into many aspects of our government.  ...What's $2.75 billion? That's pretty close to ten years of Planned Parenthood funding. If you don't scrutanize Pigford and tear it down, then you've got billions upon billions being added onto that for native American farmers. This is the means in which the Democratic Party is buying the votes of these constituencies. It's as cynical as it can get, and it's beyond proveable."
Yesterday, Breitbart was vindicated by the New York Times, who ran a top fold, front page article on Pigford (Lee Stranahan -
Andrew Breitbart worked tirelessly to expose the Pigford fraud scheme only to have the clear evidence of manipulation by politicians and plaintiff lawyers ignored by the mainstream media. The story involved politicians and lawyers hijacking a lawsuit by black farmers against the USDA designed to make up for years of discrimination and turning it into a multi-billion dollar fraud where people claiming to have 'attempted to farm' were able to collect $50,000 checks with no proof. The Obama administration expanded the program for Native Americans, Hispanics, and women, using the same low "attempted to farm" standard that invited massive, undetectable fraud.
The Times piece was written by a team led by Sharon LaFraniere, who worked on the story for months and according to the article "was based on thousands of pages of court and confidential government documents, as well as interviews with dozens of claimants, lawyers, former and current government officials and others involved in the cases over the past 14 years."
Here are some highlights from the article, including a number of details not previously reported:
Questionable Legal Moves
The Times story gives a great deal of detail about how the Obama administration certified its own settlement in the cases of the Native American, women, and Hispanic farmer settlements, sidestepping both the legal system ad Congress. Breitbart News has reported on the Obama administration's expansion of Pigford previously, but the Times brought shocking new information to light.
For one thing, there were only a total of 91 plaintiffs actually filing suit; 10 women and 81 Latinos. This is a very small number and it certainly would have been possible to handle any actual discrimination claims on a case-by-case basis. However, the Times points out that the government was very skeptical even about those cases.
“Some of these folks have never made a loan payment in their entire history with U.S.D.A.,” Lisa A. Olson, the lead government litigator against the 81 Hispanic plaintiffs, told Judge Robertson in August 2009. “There may even be folks who are under criminal investigation.”
The Obama Administration made a choice to create a settlement mechanism on their own. The Times says "the Obama administration’s political appointees at the Justice and Agriculture Departments engineered a stunning turnabout: they committed $1.33 billion to compensate not just the 91 plaintiffs but thousands of Hispanic and female farmers who had never claimed bias in court."
With pressure mounting from some in Congress, "The Obama administration made the 'legally questionable' decision to sidestep Congress and pay the woman and Hispanic farmer claims out of a special Treasury Department fund known as The Judgment Fund."
The small number of actual cases is also significant because of the disparity in the number of actual suits and the number of claims filed so far in the cases; only ten women were actually filing suit but an incredible 24,000 have filed to get $50,000 under the settlement still active at the website.
Pigford Was About Buying Votes
Even the New York Times has trouble getting Department of Justice officials to speak on record on the story. The Times says, "Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, who supervised the civil division and oversaw the handling of the cases, canceled an interview. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. also declined to comment."
This 2008 article from the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Tony West, who was then the California finance co-chair for the Obama campaign and is described as an "Obama power broker." West, a deep Obama campaign insider, oversaw the settlements for the Obama administration.
As William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection noted, Breitbart and Stranahan were attacked by Obama/Democrat Party sycophants like Media Mutters for exposing Pigford. No less than 33 attacks on Breitbart are found at Media Mutters' website.
Breitbart fought relentlessly to bring this story to the public, and into the mainstream. Over time, even a few members of Congress, like Reps. Steve King and Michele Bachmann, joined Breitbart’s efforts and tried to bring the issues to the attention of others in Congress.
In turn, Breitbart and his team, including Lee Stranahan, who lead most of the coverage, endured countless accusations of racism from left-wing outlets like Media Matters, simply for trying to highlight the plight of black farmers who were real victims of discrimination.
Many of their legitimate claims went ignored while other individuals appeared to be benefiting from fraud.
...Now might be an appropriate time to revisit Media Matters’ disingenuous attacks on Breitbart, who tried to bring attention to what the NY Times now confirms is a process that “had opened the floodgates to fraud.”
 Looks like a lot of people, including many on our side, owe him an apology.

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