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COLUMN

Happytown

The week when Haridopolos learned how to lie on YouTube, Republicans falsely conjured reparations and objectivity was kicked out of the Middle East. This is the week we'll never forget?

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“The blatantly political video released by Senator Haridopolos and hosted on the Florida Senate government website is not only incorrect in its assertions but a flagrantly inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars and a taxpayer-funded institution,” says the group’s executive director Susannah Randolph in an email. “While middle-class Floridians are struggling with 10.7 percent unemployment, a lack of healthcare for their children and record-high foreclosure rates, the senator’s priorities are on promoting his image and the image of Rick Scott. This shows a complete lack of leadership on the senator’s part.”

Also, Florida Watch Action says that their video was compiled by an intern (free!) but considering the staff involved in managing said intern, it may have been around $300. Now if only Haridopolos were so honest.

As the 2012 elections draw nearer, we were wondering how the issue of race was going to be dragged into pre-presidential politics – then, thanks to local PR wizard Ryan Julison, we learned about Pigford II, a $1.25 billion settlement between the U.S. government and a legion of black farmers who allege they were discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when they applied for farm loans between 1981 and 1996. The case, named after a North Carolina soybean farmer who filed the original suit, rattled the USDA so much that in 1994, it ordered a study of its loans. The results quantified the discrimination – loans to black male farmers were, on average, 25 percent smaller than those granted to white male farmers, white farmers received 97 percent of disaster payments,and so on. The feds would eventually shell out nearly a billion dollars to more than 15,000 claimants, but tens of thousands of applications were filed late and remained unpaid. Enter Pigford’s second act, which was mostly funded by a special appropriations act which was signed by President Obama in December last year.

The farmers of Pigford II hoped that the settlement would be approved on Sept. 1, but instead, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman said he would take the case under advisement. For Orlando attorney Greg Francis – Julison’s client and a ranking attorney within the army that is the Morgan & Morgan law firm – that meant the most hectic half-year of his career would have to wait. Francis is one of three attorneys responsible for thinning out an 71,684-strong herd of farmers hoping for a piece of the federal pie. What will result from this vetting process, Francis says, is a smaller group of farmers well-situated to receive between $50,000 and $250,000 in damages, depending on how badly they’ve been shafted and if they can prove it. This burden of proof will be tested in thousands of face-to-face meetings conducted by attorneys in a tour of the Southeast; most of the farmers are, according to Francis, from Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina, with some scattered in Florida and others who decided there wasn’t much future in farming – mysteriously – and moved to Chicago and Detroit.

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