Pigford II and the Eternal Problem of How to Prove Discrimination | Mother Jones: The New York Times has an epic piece today about fraud in a government program originally designed to compensate black farmers who had been unfairly denied Agriculture Department loans in the 80s and 90s.
The original compensation program, usually called Pigford after the class-action lawsuit that got it going, eventually led to a second settlement, Pigford II, that covered a broader class, including women, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
Some 66,000 claims poured in after the 1999 deadline. Noting that the government had given “extensive” notice, Judge Friedman ruled the door closed to late filers. “That is simply how class actions work,” he wrote.
But it was not how politics worked. The next nine years brought a concerted effort to allow the late filers to seek awards....Legislators from both parties, including Mr. Obama as a senator in 2007, sponsored bills to grant the late filers relief.
....Congress finally inserted a provision in the 2008 farm bill allowing late filers to bring new lawsuits, with their claims to be decided by the same standard of evidence as before. The bill also declared a sense of Congress that minority farmers’ bias claims and lawsuits should be quickly and justly resolved.
Congress overrode a veto by Mr. Bush, who objected to other provisions in the bill. But as Mr. Bush left Washington, Congress had appropriated only $100 million for compensation, hardly enough to pay for processing claims.