Black farmers? Settlement money? I had no idea what he was talking about. None.
Later I became aware that on a CNN discussion on “the Sherrod fallout,” April Ryan of Urban Radio Network mentioned the Pigford settlement. Ryan described Pigford as a “litmus test” of the Obama Administration’s relationship with black Americans.
A quick Google search revealed that Ryan and Hayes had been alluding to the incredibly conspicuous news that days after Sherrod was fired by the Obama administration, funding for the $1.15 billion Pigford II settlement was pulled out from a supplementary war funding bill.
The Google search also revealed that Senators Obama and Biden had been two of four Pigford legislative sponsors in the Senate.
Even more interesting, Rep. Steve King (R-Ia), who is on the House Agriculture committee, was on AM radio drawing attention to what was previously not known to me, and it was a blockbuster: Shirley Sherrod, and her husband, Charles, along with their decades-long defunct communal farm, New Communities Inc., were set to receive over a whopping $13 million in the Pigford settlement, the largest amount of money allocated in the history of the Pigford settlement.
California political legend and African American former mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, of all people, started to connect the dots for me in the San Francisco Chronicle:
As an old pro, though, I know that you don’t fire someone without at least hearing their side of the story unless you want them gone in the first place. This woman has been a thorn in the side of the Agriculture Department for years. She was part of a class-action lawsuit against the department on behalf of black farmers in the South. For years, she has been operating a community activist organization not unlike ACORN. I think there were those in the Agriculture Department who objected to her being hired in the first place.
All of this led to me to wanting to know more about Pigford. My gut instinct to fight back hard and immediately against the charges that I was a racist who had heavily edited videos to do a hit job on Shirley Sherrod. None of that was true, but now I was seeing there was something larger going on behind the scenes and that it somehow related to Pigford.
I started to research Pigford and the more we looked into it, the more I realized that this was not a story that could be researched and told quickly. In fact, it was still unfolding. And even now, it still is.
This coming Wednesday, President Obama is slated to sign the Pigford II settlement.
But that will not be the end of the story. The American people deserve a full investigation and accounting.
Today, we’re releasing a report called “The Pigford Shakedown: How the Black Farmers’ Cause Was Hijacked by Politicians, Trial Lawyers & Community Organizers — Leaving Us With a Billion Dollar Tab.”
What have we discovered about Pigford so far?
Treasure troves of information from Lexis and Google. USDA whistleblowers. A former FBI agent who was on the verge of indictments. One of the originally discriminated-against black farmers with the goods. All these people paint a very clear picture of widespread fraud, and can testify to a complex web of bad players, including politicians, trial attorneys and community organizers.
I stumbled on the Pigford story in my defense of the Tea Party, so it’s a sweet irony that the Pigford story is exactly the kind of mess that makes the Tea Party so necessary. Politicians and trial attorneys bonded together to rip off the taxpayer, and even those farmers that were discriminated against were royally screwed.
Let me be clear, our investigation convincingly leads us to believe the USDA practiced discrimination against black farmers. Those wrongs must be rectified. But Pigford is wrought with a grotesque amount of fraud, while the truly aggrieved were mostly left high and dry.
Read the whole thing.