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					August 8, 2007

The Honorable Phyllis K.   Fong
Inspector General
United States Department   of Agriculture
Room 117-W Jamie Whitten   Bldg
1400 Independence Avenue   SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Ms. Fong:

We are writing to request an investigation into what we
believe are illegal lobbying activities on the part of USDA
employees seeking to block the legislative advancement of
civil rights provisions in the farm bill recently passed by
the House of Representatives.

This illegal lobbying activity is all the more disturbing
in light of the well-documented history of discrimination
against black farmers by the very agency whose personnel
have now used government resources in an attempt to block
legislation that would allow black farmers to renew pursuit
of discrimination claims.

Disclosure of this illegal lobbying activity prompted the
attached August 7, 2007, memorandum to all Farm Service
Agency employees from Administrator Teresa Lasseter.

We are simultaneously referring this matter to the U.S.
Department of Justice upon information and belief that USDA
employees made use of appropriated funds for activities
that directly or indirectly were intended or designed to
influence Members of Congress to oppose pending civil
rights legislation pertaining to USDA, in violation of a
criminal statute (18 U.S.C. 1913) that prohibits lobbying
with appropriated moneys.

Bases upon information it is our belief that during
business hours on the morning of August 2, 2007, USDA
employee Kim DePasquale, an official with the Farm Service
Agency’s Service Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia, used a
government computer to send the attached email to 40 other
FSA employees stationed in Virginia.
The email urges recipients to contact their Senators to
oppose a provision in the farm bill passed July 27 by the
House of Representatives that would reopen a landmark civil
rights case against the department for discrimination in
providing farm loans to black farmers.

The provision under challenge would allow up to 73,000
black farmers another chance to pursue discrimination
claims that were disqualified without review on their
merits because they were filed after a court-mandated
deadline.

The DePasquale email states, in part:

    PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATOR TODAY CONCERNING THE
    FOLLOWING: DO NOT ALLOW LATE FILERS ON THE PIGFORD
    LAWSUIT. AMPLE TIME AND OPPORTUNITY WAS GIVEN DURING
    THE INITIAL SUIT TO FILE AND THIS LATE FILING WOULD
    BURY THE AGENCY AND COST TAXPAYERS BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
    IF THE 73,000 LATE FILERS ARE ACCEPTED

    Members, please step up and make your voice heard in
    this Farm Bill debate. I am willing to tell my
    Senators that I will not cast my vote for anyone who
    will not stand up and do what's right instead of
    worrying about being politically correct. They should
    be fiscally responsible and at the same time listen to
    their constituents! [sic] WE CAN STOP THIS IF WE RISE
    UP TOGETHER AND MAKE OUR VOICE HEARD! KEEP CONTACTING
    THEM UNTIL THEY HEAR YOU! MAKE SURE THEY RECEIVE YOUR
    MESSAGE, FAX, E-MAIL, ETC.

[All emphases in original.]

Ms. DePasquale confirmed to Kenneth Cook during a telephone
conversation the afternoon of Monday, August 6, that she
had in fact sent the email from a government computer
during business hours. Ms. DePasquale stated at that time
that prior to sending the email, she had received a version
of it at her government computer that had been transmitted
from yet another government computer.

Ms. DePasquale’s email makes hearsay reference to contacts
between USDA Deputy Administrator for Farm Loan Programs,
Carolyn Cooksie, and the National Association of Credit
Specialists, a professional association of USDA employees


                              2
who administer the loan programs that were the subject of
the Pigford discrimination case.

    NACS has just spoken to Carolyn Cooksie concerning the
    inclusion of another Pigford Bill attached to the
    House's version of the Farm Bill. She said it is
    "awful" and will allow some 73,000 late filers in and
    we will probably have another class action suit.Ms.
    DePasquale’s email concludes:

    Remember, don't make contacts using the office
    telephone or computer. Send your contacts from home or
    from another location other than the office, but send
    them! It would also be great to have others contact
    them as well. Tell you friends, CED's [County
    Executive Directors of FSA], and farmers what's going
    on in this Farm Bill debate and they may wish to make
    contacts as well. Especially those that have influence
    with their Senators!

We allege that this email, and any others like it sent from
government computers, at minimum violates 18 U.S.C. 1913
(Lobbying with appropriated moneys):

    No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of
    Congress shall, in the absence of express
    authorization by Congress, be used directly or
    indirectly to pay for any personal service,
    advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or
    written matter, or other device, intended or designed
    to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, to
    favor or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation
    or appropriation by Congress, whether before or after
    the introduction of any bill or resolution proposing
    such legislation or appropriation; but this shall not
    prevent officers or employees of the United States or
    of its departments or agencies from communicating to
    Members of Congress on the request of any Member or to
    Congress, through the proper official channels,
    requests for legislation or appropriations which they
    deem necessary for the efficient conduct of the public
    business.

    Whoever, being an officer or employee of the United
    States or of any department or agency thereof,
    violates or attempts to violate this section, shall be
    fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one


                             3
      year, or both; and after notice and hearing by the
      superior officer vested with the power of removing
      him, shall be removed from office or employment.

We request that you investigate any and all potential
violations of federal criminal or civil law involving the
use of government resources, including paid staff time,
computers, phones or other devices, to influence Members of
Congress in opposition to pending civil rights provisions
of the House-passed farm bill.

We specifically ask that you direct your investigation to
employees referenced in the DePasquale email; to government
employee-members and officers of the National Association
of Credit Specialists or the National Association of
Support Employees (NASE); and to other USDA employees who
may have violated federal law in this matter.

We thank you for your time and attention to this important
issue.


Sincerely,


Kenneth Cook                        Dr. John Boyd
President                      President
Environmental Working Group         National Black Farmers
Association


Cc:   Alice S. Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal
      Division, United States Department of Justice
      Hon. Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture
      Chuck Conner, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
      Margo M. McKay, Undersecretary for Civil Rights, USDA
      Hon. Teresa Lasseter, Administrator, Farm Service
      Agency
      Hon. Charles Grassley, United States Senate
      Hon. Barack Obama, United States Senate
      Hon. John Conyers, Chairman, House Committee on the
      Judiciary
      Hon. Steve Chabot, U.S. House of Representatives
      Hon. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Chairwoman,
      Congressional Black Caucus
      Hon. Sanford Bishop, U.S. House of Representatives
      Hon. Corrine Brown, U.S. House of Representatives


                              4
          Hon. G. K. Butterfield, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Julia Carson, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Donna Christian-Christensen, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Yvette Clarke, U.S. House of Representatives

          Hon. William Lacy Clay, Jr., U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Emanuel Cleaver, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. James Clyburn, U.S. House of Representatives
     Hon. Elijah Cummings, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Artur Davis, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Danny K. Davis, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives

          Hon. Chaka Fattah, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Al Green, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Alcee Hastings, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. William J. Jefferson, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Eddie Bernice Johnson, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Hank Johnson, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Barbara Lee, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Sheila Jackson-Lee, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. John Lewis, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Kendrick Meek, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Gregory Meeks, U.S. House of Representatives

          Hon. Gwen Moore, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Eleanor Holmes Norton, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Donald M. Payne, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Charles B. Rangel, U.S. House of
Representatives


                             5
          Hon. Bobby Rush, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Bobby Scott, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. David Scott, U.S. House of Representatives
          Hon. Bennie Thompson, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Edolphus Towns, U.S. House of
Representatives
          Hon. Maxine Waters, U.S. House of Representatives

         Hon. Diane Watson, U.S. House of Representatives
         Hon. Melvin Watt, U.S. House of Representatives
         Hon. Albert Wynn, U.S. House of Representatives




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