No More Taxpayer Money to Settle ‘Fraudulent’ Pigford II Claims, Republican Says
(CNSNews.com) - A Republican lawmaker is trying to protect taxpayers from what he calls fraudulent racial discrimination claims filed against the government by black farmers.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Wednesday filed an amendment to an Agriculture appropriations bill that would prevent any additional taxpayer money from being used to settle claims associated with the government's "fraud-plagued Pigford II program."
The money, King said, “is being used primarily to build political goodwill for the President.”
As CNSNews.com previously reported, the USDA allegedly discriminated against black farmers in dispensing federally funded farm loans between 1981 and 1996. In 1999, the federal government settled a class action suit brought against the government by black farmers. The case was dubbed “Pigford," after the name of the lead plaintiff.
As a result of that Pigford settlement, the government eventually paid $1 billion in compensation to 15,640 claimants.
However, 73,800 additional people applied for compensation after the September 2000 filing deadline.
In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama managed to get $100 million included in the annual farm bill to pay compensation to black claimants who missed the September 2000 deadline in the original Pigford settlement.
But in February 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder reached a new settlement with the black farmers — called “Pigford II” -- to provide an additional $1.15 billion to black farmers, on top of Obama’s $100 million earmark.
In November 2010, the lame-duck Congress approved the $1.15 billion (to add to the $100 million Obama had inserted into the 2008 farm bill), making a total of $1.25 billion available to black farmers. Obama signed that funding bill into law late last year.
It is the $1.15 billion figure that concerns Rep. King:
"In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress limited taxpayers' exposure to the Pigford II settlement program at $100 million, a figure that was deemed sufficient to resolve the racial discrimination claims leveled against the United States Department of Agriculture by black farmers," King said on Wednesday.
"Since that time, a lame-duck Democratic Congress agreed to President Obama's request to pump an additional $1.15 billion into the Pigford II settlement program, doing so even though the program is rife with credible allegations of massive fraud that have not been fully investigated. This was an irresponsible act, and it violated Congress's responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayers' money."
King said the House of Representatives, now led by Republicans, should not ratify the lame-duck Congress's decision to increase American taxpayers' exposure to the Pigford II "fraud."
"I believe that an investigation into the program will reveal that the majority of the claims that have been filed are fraudulent, and Congress should not turn a blind eye to the real possibility that the money is being used primarily to build political goodwill for the President instead of being used to properly redress the much smaller universe of people who have actually suffered harm.
"If passed, my amendment would put the brakes on Pigford II funding, and it would prevent the Secretary of Agriculture from paying fraudulent claims one $50,000 check at a time."
As CNSNews.com has reported, King and some other members of Congress believe that the USDA did in fact discriminate against black farmers in the period from 1981 through 1996. However, they are concerned that the number of people who have received compensation payments from the government, and who are anticipated to receive compensation under the new settlement, may significantly exceed the number of people who were actual victims of discrimination.