Politics

Two years later, the mainstream press catches up with the Pigford scandal

Two years later, the mainstream press catches up with the Pigford scandal

This has got to be one of the most stunning confirmations of media bias, and one of the greatest vindications of conservative media, since the epic fall of Dan Rather.  Anyone familiar with the late Andrew Breitbart’s focus on this story can only shake their heads in wonder as the New York Times finally notices the Pigford scandal, in which a program to compensate black farmers for discrimination “became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees.”  (The name “Pigford” comes from the 1997 Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit that got the whole thing rolling.)

Ever since the Clinton administration agreed in 1999 to make $50,000 payments to thousands of black farmers, the Hispanics and women had been clamoring in courtrooms and in Congress for the same deal. They argued, as the African-Americans had, that biased federal loan officers had systematically thwarted their attempts to borrow money to farm.

But a succession of courts — and finally the Supreme Court — had rebuffed their pleas. Instead of an army of potential claimants, the government faced just 91 plaintiffs. Those cases, the government lawyers figured, could be dispatched at limited cost.

They were wrong.

Oh, brother, were they ever wrong.

On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling, interviews and records show, 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.

The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud.

Good thing the New York Times didn’t tell its readers about this before the election!  They might have gotten some funny ideas about holding Barack Obama accountable.

This disaster had everything we’ve come to expect from President Solyndra’s operations: reckless disregard for legal safeguards, taxpayer money thrown around with wild abandon, political hacks overriding the judgment of career agency officials, and millions of dollars vanishing into the shadows:

A 2010 settlement with Native Americans was contentious for its own reasons. Justice Department lawyers argued that the $760 million agreement far outstripped the potential cost of a defeat in court. Agriculture officials said not that many farmers would file claims.

That prediction proved prophetic. Only $300 million in claims were filed, leaving nearly $400 million in the control of plaintiffs’ lawyers to be distributed among a handful of nonprofit organizations serving Native American farmers. Two and a half years later, the groups have yet to be chosen. It is unclear how many even exist.

I wrote about this scandal in December 2010, leading to my first direct communication with Andrew Breitbart – he thanked me for covering the story and recommended my article via Twitter.  The writers who carry on his vision at Breitbart News are taking some well-deserved victory laps for him today.

Now I’d like to call on the editors of the New York Times to rewrite their story to acknowledge Andrew by name, and more fully explain to their readers that the story they are only just now covering has been well-known to Breitbart’s readers for years.  This is the only acknowledgement of the superior conservative media coverage currently made in the article:

Public criticism came primarily from conservative news outlets like Breitbart.com and from Congressional conservatives like Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who described the program as rife with fraud. Few Republicans or Democrats supported him. Asked why, Mr. King said, “Never underestimate the fear of being called a racist.”

That’s it, in an otherwise well-researched article that runs for thousands of words.  You can do better than that, New York Times.  Cowboy up.

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