Governor Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison have a line on the massive Feeding Our Future fraud. Their fallback defense is that the Minnesota Department of Education brought the case to the FBI and that MDE’s $250 million payout of federal tax dollars to the perpetrators of the fraud was required by the FBI so as not to blow the investigation. They count on the inability of friendly and incompetent reporters to pierce this absurdity and they think the voters are morons.
Ellison appeared yesterday morning for an interview by WCCO’s Vineeta Sawkar. Like Walz, Ellison is unaccustomed to unloving questions from friendly reporters. You can feel the flop sweat forming as Sawkar slightly presses him on his nonfeasance in shutting down the fraud. He hems and haws, pleads attorney-client privilege, refers to cooperation with the FBI investigation, and alleges compulsion by Judge Guthmann’s mythical “order” to continue payments. Ellison presses the story that the payments continued at the instance of the FBI. (See Ellison’s timeline of the scandal here.) This is a lie as open and obvious as the underlying Feeding Our Future fraud, yet this is where we are.
My friend Howard Root elaborated on this in an email yesterday (below the break). Howard writes:
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The Minnesota Department of Education didn’t want to be seen as attacking minority businesses trying to feed children in the heart of the pandemic. Instead of saying “no” on the site applications that resulted in the lawsuit before Judge Guthmann, MDE just delayed making a decision while they thought about what to do. On top of this, in early 2021 everyone’s working from home, and the department isn’t an efficient organization at getting things done even in the best of times, so delay is the first choice to every decision.
But then Feeding Our Future got a good lawyer and dragged MDE into court. Guthmann told MDE to either accept or deny the site applications so MDE could appeal any denial, which is as reasonable a decision as a judge can make in this situation.
Guthmann didn’t say “pay the claim” or “deny the claim,” but instead said “make a decision on the claim.” Even with this clear direction, MDE continued to delay making the decision on the claims because MDE still saw risk on both sides.
Then Guthmann got upset at MDE, fined them for violating his order to make a decision, and MDE at that point thought let’s just pitch it to the FBI and give up and resume paying. That’ll at least get this judge off our backs.
The investigation continues for over another year and the fraud grows to a massive $250M+. Locked into a decision to punt to the FBI, however, MDE certainly weren’t interested in all of a sudden saying or doing anything that would make it look like MDE was responsible.
So this can of fraud continues to be kicked down the road until Luger finally holds his press conference announcing the indictments just two months before the election. DFLers must be livid that Luger couldn’t just wait until after the election to indict.
Now Walz needs to come up with a quick explanation for his administration’s inaction and that explanation cannot cause any harm to his or Ellison’s campaign. So he says Guthmann ordered payments to continue, not expecting the judge to respond–because judges never do.
With his thin skin Walz couldn’t help throwing in fake outrage at the judge’s decision and demanding an investigation of Guthmann. This prompted Guthmann’s response pointing out he never required payments to resume.
So now Walz has to shift his explanation to what Guthmann said during the court hearing. But that explanation falls apart when the court transcript shows that Guthmann said no such thing. So now Walz needs a third explanation of how this fraud continued for well over a year after MDE first knew about it.
At this point Walz and Ellison figure they really need to point the finger at someone who definitely will not respond, at least until after the election. That makes the FBI the perfect alibi, because the FBI will have no comment on any of these communications while the criminal case is proceeding.
Walz and Ellison assert not only that the FBI demanded that MDE continue to pay these fraudulent claims, but they brag that the FBI thanked MDE for its cooperation in the criminal investigation — as if that’s the FBI’s endorsement of MDE continuing to pay the fraudsters.
When asked about what the substance of the FBI communications with MDE and when anyone at MDE first knew about the fraud, Ellison claims he can’t disclose anything because of attorney-client privilege — even though just seconds before he said the FBI told MDE to stay silent!
At this point, Walz and Ellison need to do is land on a story (a third story) that they can stick with through the election without creating a new angle. And dutifully, the Star Tribune has already shifted the narrative from how could MDE continued to pay this much money for this long of a time in an obvious fraud to the standard “Republicans pounce.”
There’s no way the FBI would tell MDE to continue paying fraudulent claims in order to build a stronger case. Instead, the FBI would say either “you do what you need to do” or “don’t pay if you think it’s fraud,” because the FBI doesn’t control the MDE. But Ellison is so arrogant that he doesn’t spend any time formulating answers to obvious questions. Walz at least has the political sense to head to Grand Marais for a doughnut and isn’t available for press inquiries until Thursday.
UPDATE: Former TCF Financial Corporation general counsel Greg Pulles also makes our points in his Alpha News column “The DFL’s big lie.”