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."
From the December 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Program:
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Conservative media have attacked Congress for approving $1.15 billion to settle discrimination claims by African-Americans against the Department of Agriculture (often referred to as Pigford II claims), asserting the settlement is a form of "reparations." In fact, claimants in the case must provide considerable evidence that they were victims of discrimination by the USDA before they receive any money.
For some reason, ever since Barack Obama became president of the United States, the right wing has been stumbling from one race-baiting claim to the next. But a blog post today pulls a number of those absurd strands together. J. Christian Adams - the ringleader of the right's phony New Black Panthers scandal - is linking that conspiracy to recent Pigford-Cobell settlements to black farmers and Native Americans as "controversial racialist policies of the Obama Administration."
And he's doing it at BigGovernment.com, the Andrew Breitbart website well-known for smearing former Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod as a racist.
Adam's link between the two is "leftist" Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. According to Adams, Perelli is responsible for "a race-driven political payoff by the Obama Administration to a favored political constituency" in the form of "a $4.6 billion payout to American Indians and black farmers as part of a settlement of alleged race discrimination claims."
In reality, the bill recently passed by the Senate and the House funds settlements in the Pigford and Cobell cases. Pigford deals with well-documented discrimination against black farmers by the Agriculture Department. Cobell involves massive management malfeasance with regard to Indian trust accounts .
How "controversial" were those settlements? Their funding passed the Senate by voice vote. No senator was concerned enough about the settlements to even deny passage by unanimous consent. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has been a longtime champion of the Pigford settlement; on passage of the bill, the Cobell plaintiffs thanked Republican Sens. Grassley, John Barrasso, and Jon Kyl for their action. But it involves President Obama and minorities, so for people like Adams and Breitbart, it must be, as Rush Limbaugh puts it, "reparations."
Adams also paints Perelli as being "behind the dismissal of the already won DOJ case against the New Black Panthers who organized and ran an armed voter intimidation effort the day Obama was elected." He suggests that this was due to "the New Black Panther's endorsement of candidate Obama during the primaries," because surely every presidential candidate dreams of the cachet that comes with the endorsement of a fringe hate group.
In reality, the Justice Department successfully obtained default judgment against a member of the New Black Panther Party who was carrying a nightstick outside the Philadelphia polling center, but dropped civil charges against other defendants. No voter has ever emerged to state they were intimidated at the time.
Adams' evidence that Perelli played a "central role" in the case is that there were "emails between Perrelli and his top political lieutenants supervising the lawsuit" about the case. Adams' previous writings on this issue reveal that the most damning email he's uncovered from Perelli states simply, "Where are we on the Black Panther case?" This seems consistent with testimony from Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who has said that "Whenever there is a decision involving a case that has attracted attention, we -- when the decision is made, we obviously communicate that up the chain." That seems pretty reasonable.
But as J. Christian Adams, GOP activist, knows well, you don't get booked on Fox News by making sense; you get booked by claiming that the Obama administration is racist.