The administration claims that it was worth settling the Hispanic and Native American cases to avoid the potential of adverse court rulings. But the Times quotes parties familiar with the litigation who say that the government would have easily prevailed had the trials run their course, rendering the administration’s decision inexplicable. In the suits brought by women and Hispanics, courts found the potential pool of legitimate claimants to number 91 in total, a “class” so small that the government could have dealt with them one at a time. The Native American settlement allocated $760 million, of which only $300 million could be awarded to claimants deemed legitimate. The rest will be distributed to Native American “nonprofits” that may or may not exist, and to trial lawyers, who admitted to the Times they were pleasantly surprised by the size of their cut, but “absent a court order” had no intention of returning any of it.
None of this sorry, shameful, and outrageous mess approaches the realm of “justice.” Pigford and its spawn instead resembles in organization and aim a criminal conspiracy of breathtaking proportions, and one in which the federal government was first complicit and then ultimately responsible. The Times report exposes — as Dan Foster did in his piece for us two years ago — Senator, Candidate, and President Obama’s advocacy for the settlements as barely alloyed quid pro quo, in which Pigford profiteers promised to help Obama run up the score against Hillary Clinton in the rural South in exchange for his work on their behalf. Similarly, the Hispanic case was negligently settled at the urging of the polluted Senator Robert Menendez, who threatened to make noise if the Department of Justice did not give Hispanics the same deal the president gave blacks.
At a minimum, a congressional investigation is needed, as is congressional intervention in the continued administration of the payouts. Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) has long called for such measures, and it is time his calls are heeded. It is shame, to the tune of billions in taxpayers’ dollars, that it has taken this long for the mainstream media and its readers to catch up to the reality of Pigford. But now that they have, perhaps they can be shamed into helping put an end to it.