WASHINGTON – Two Republican members of Congress today spoke out against the Democratic congressional leadership and the Obama administration for trying to push through another billion dollars in funding for a legal settlement allegedly riddled with fraud.
At a Capitol Hill press conference, Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Steve King, R-Iowa, issued a statement, “We call on our colleagues to withhold funding Pigford II until after Attorney General Holder conducts a fraud investigation into the underlying claims of both Pigford I and II.”
The original settlement ended a class-action lawsuit, Pigford v. Vilsack, filed by 400 black farmers in 1996 alleging discrimination at the hands of the United States Department of Agriculture.
“More than 94,000 claims of discrimination have been filed thus far under Pigford, even though data shows that there are only approximately 33,000 black farmers in the entire United States. How can this be?” said Bachmann in the news release.
“U.S. taxpayers have already spent $1 billion in Pigford claims [Pigford I],” said Bachmann. “Now the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are trying to rush through an additional $1.25 billion in the waning days of this session [Pigford II].”
Bachmann also berated the Obama administration for its failure to investigate the fraud allegations.
“Why is there a lack of interest on the part of the Obama administration in investigating these allegations of massive fraud?” she said.
Bachmann pointed out that Congress allocated $100 million to investigate Pigford fraud in 2008, but, soon after entering the White House in 2009, the administration, “specifically Attorney General Eric Holder,” decided not to investigate.
The two members of Congress provided a “witness list” of seven unnamed individuals prepared to testify about Pigford fraud if Congress will subpoena their testimony.
“Witness No. 1,” a black farmer party to the original lawsuit, will testify about “homeless people who have received Pigford payments and attorneys who have trolled through neighborhoods, signing up claimants that were known to have never farmed a day in their life.”
According to the “witness list,” he will also testify that federal employees recruited Pigford claimants in return for kickbacks.
Four of the unnamed witnesses are said to be USDA employees, some of whom were responsible for processing Pigford claims. They are said to be willing to testify that as many as 80 percent to 90 percent of Pigford claims are fraudulent.
“Witness No. 5” is said to be an FBI agent who investigated Pigford cases for fraud and claims to know of “numerous” cases where prosecutors ignored evidence and failed to bring charges.