A lesson for discredited conservative activist Andrew Breitbart: If you're going to cheat, don't show your cards. Even better yet: don't cheat.
Last week Breitbart released a 29-page report calling for a congressional investigation into what he claims is "widespread corruption" surrounding the 1999 USDA settlement in Pigford v. Glickman. The lawsuit was filed by black farmers who were denied loans and whose discrimination complaints were ignored by the USDA between 1981 and 1996. Breitbart asserts that most of the claims for payment under the settlement were filed by undeserving people and that then-Senator Obama pushed to extend the payments for those who missed the filing deadline in order to buy the rural black vote in 2007. (No explanation provided for why Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was such a willing accomplice.)
The allegations of massive fraud made in the report rely heavily on anecdotes apparently provided to Breitbart by what appear to be numerous unnamed USDA employees. But it turns out that Breitbart took portions of an interview with one person and presented them as though they came from several different people. How do we know that? Because after publishing his report, Breitbart posted interviews with his sources on BigGovernment.com in what I assume was an effort to draw more attention to his "Pigford investigation" (I guess the bright red headlines weren't working.)
In the following excerpt from Breitbart's report, each of the USDA sources referenced in bold is actually the same person, according to the interview posted on BigGovernment.com, but are presented in the report as several different people:
Some of the claims of discrimination didn't make sense. One employee reports that there were numerous claims of racial discrimination against the USDA offices in Jefferson County, Arkansas, for example, but the supervisors in that office were all black.
Another employee from Arkansas reports that there were literally hundreds of claims from black women stating they had been the victims of USDA discrimination but in his 15 years in Arkansas, he had only ever seen one black female applicant for a loan.
Still another USDA employee reports that he personally witnessed an example where eight Pigford applicants came from one single family, and they were accepted and granted by USDA. "Pigford was basically legalized extortion," reports this USDA employee, "it reached the point where they were just handing money to people."
Since Pigford applicants had to name a USDA employee they had dealt with on their claim form, once applicants found certain names that "worked," word spread and those same names started being used all over. One-employee reports, "I had Pigford claims filed against me, but they put me at the wrong location. I had to develop a chronology listing where I had worked and in which USDA office so they could see that the claims of discrimination simply didn't make sense. I was never there. The time they would claim I denied them USDA services didn't add up because I was never there!" This employee, and other USDA employees we interviewed concur, that some discrimination no doubt took place. But they believe the numbers of total cases had to be around 100, not the nearly hundred thousand that were claimed.
USDA was all too eager to simply write the checks. "The legal standard was supposed to be a preponderance of evidence," says one employee, "but soon they pretty much gave money to whoever filled out a form."
Another interview posted on BigGovernment.com reveals that Breitbart's Pigford report uses the same deceptive tactic with a second source. The two sources in bold below are actually one person. From the report:
One employee who helped process Pigford applications in Washington reports, "We saw claims come in from affluent areas. There were claims from Palm Beach and Palm Springs, and they said they were black farmers. One applicant said the Chicago USDA office discriminated them against. There is no USDA office in Chicago. They got paid anyway."
"I was assigned in Washington to process claims," reports still another employee. "The claimant would get $50,000, and $12,500 would go to the Internal Revenue Service [Pigford payments are tax free]. And another $12,500 would go to an attorney who helped prepare the documentation. It was very lucrative for attorneys. Do the math."
We'll address Breitbart's report in more detail later on, but this certainly isn't a good sign.