On Feeding Our Future, a Blockbuster Development

We have written a number of times about the Feeding Our Future scandal, the worst to emerge from the federal government’s feckless distribution of covid dollars. Briefly, Feeding Our Future (“FOF”) was a fraudulent nonprofit that accessed an astonishing $240 million in federal money, ostensibly to feed needy children in Minnesota. Under the supervision of Minnesota’s Department of Education, FOF distributed that money to a network of Minnesota nonprofits who allegedly delivered the actual meals to children. But it turns out that the money mostly went to luxury purchases, fancy cars, overseas vacations, gold and jewels, new houses, and property in places like Kenya and Turkey. FOF kept a slice of the $240 million and added to it by charging kickbacks. The entire fraud has now unraveled in a series of 48 or more indictments announced last week by the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

Throughout, the public officials on whose watch this massive fraud occurred have relied mostly on a single defense: in 2021, the Department of Education, having become suspicious, tried to cut off funding to some of FOF’s clients. But a state court judge rejected MDE’s arguments and ordered the Department to resume funding what turned out to be one of the biggest frauds on record. That was the story.

Minnesota’s lazy and ineffective Governor Tim Walz, whose administration oversaw the FOF fraud, has tried to shift blame to the judge who allegedly ordered the criminality to continue. (There are lots of problems with that argument, but let them go for the moment.) Walz told local press that he wanted the judge investigated:

“I would hope there would be an investigation into that,” Walz told reporters Thursday. “I was speechless, unbelievable that this ruling could come down.”

Which is not much of a defense, because it means that Walz knew about the fraud in 2021, but kept silent at a time when publicity surely would have brought FOF crashing down.

But that isn’t the worst of it. Today, the judge in question–Ramsey County District Court Judge John H. Guthmann–had had enough, and unloaded on Walz and other officials, like Attorney General Keith Ellison, who have tried to shift the blame to him. Judge Guthmann released an official statement through the Minnesota court system that I will quote at length because it is so important:

Due to inaccurate statements by the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the media regarding the investigation of Feeding Our Future (FOF) and resulting federal indictments, Ramsey County District Court Judge John H. Guthmann has authorized the issuance of this news release.

Since the investigation of Feeding Our Future (FOF) by law enforcement became public in January 2022, numerous media outlets have reported on the investigation and the events leading to federal criminal indictments. Many of the reports commented on the civil lawsuit filed in Ramsey County District Court by FOF against the MN Department of Education in November 2020. The original lawsuit was based solely on claims that the Department of Education violated federal regulations and laws prohibiting race discrimination, by failing to act on FOF’s applications for new food-distribution sites as part of its administration of the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program. Judge Guthmann was initially assigned to the case. The lawsuit included a motion by FOF for an order to require the Department of Education to act on pending site applications. Before the court could rule, the parties reached an agreement in which the Department of Education agreed to handle these federally regulated site applications “reasonably promptly.” A consent order approving the settlement was issued on December 22, 2020.

The Department of Education suspended payments to FOF based on a “serious deficiencies” letter it issued to FOF on March 30, 2021. As a result, FOF filed a motion asking Judge Guthmann to order the Department of Education to resume payments and to pay sanctions. Judge Guthmann never ordered the Department of Education to resume payments to FOF in April 2021, or at any other time.

I plead guilty here. Relying on a false news report in the Star Tribune, I have said in several radio interviews that a local state court judge ordered that payments to FOF continue. It is one more reminder that you can’t trust Democratic Party newspapers on even the most basic questions of fact.

Thereafter, the Department of Education voluntarily resumed making payments to FOF. The Department of Education was not ordered by the court to do so. After the Department resumed voluntary payments, counsel for the Department of Education wrote the court asking that FOF’s motion for sanctions based on non-payment be denied as moot because the Department voluntarily resumed payments. In a later court filing related to FOF’s separate motion for sanctions based on the failure to approve or deny 144 applications for new food delivery sites, the Department of Education advised the court that FOF’s serious deficiencies were resolved as of June 4, 2021.

So it was Tim Walz’s minions who told the court that everything was A-OK with Feeding Our Future, and hundreds of millions continued to flow.

On February 26, 2022, the Star Tribune reported on a federal investigation of FOF. The article included the following false statement: “In April 2021, Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann told the department it didn’t have the authority to stop payments and ordered the department to resume payments.” Since February, that Star Tribune quote has been repeated or paraphrased on many occasions by many other media outlets. The same media sources reported that, in her April 4, 2022, testimony to the Minnesota Senate, the Commissioner of the Education stated that the MN Department of Education tried to stop payments to FOF, only to be ordered by Judge Guthmann to resume payments. That is false. Then, when federal indictments were announced this week, many new reports were published. On September 22, 2022, Governor Tim Walz told the media that the Minnesota Department of Education attempted to end payments to FOF because of possible fraud, but that Judge Guthmann ordered payments to continue in April 2021. That is also false.

You might think there are limits to the lies that desperate politicians will tell, or limits to the laziness (or, usually, complicity) of liberal reporters who repeat those lies. But in fact, if there are such limits, we haven’t yet found them.

The press release by Minnesota’s Judicial Branch concludes:

As the public court record and Judge Guthmann’s orders make plain, Judge Guthmann never issued an order requiring the MN Department of Education to resume food reimbursement payments to FOF. The Department of Education voluntarily resumed payments and informed the court that FOF resolved the “serious deficiencies” that prompted it to suspend payments temporarily. All of the MN Department of Education food reimbursement payments to FOF were made voluntarily, without any court order.

So responsibility for the biggest fraud relating to federal covid payments rests with Governor Tim Walz and his administration. The fraud is more than bad enough, but it is made far worse by Tim Walz’s attempts to deflect blame to a judge who did not, in fact, order Walz’s administration to do anything.

This dodging of responsibility is typical of the notoriously lazy Tim Walz. Minnesota has declined sadly during his four years as governor. Our economy is failing, our population is so stagnant that we barely held on to a Congressional seat in the last census, many of our most productive citizens are deserting Minnesota for more prosperous states, our serious crime rate, historically low, is now above the national average, we have become an international byword for riots and lawlessness, our state government is driving gasoline prices higher through ridiculous “green” mandates at a time when families are struggling to pay their bills, and so on. But Lazy Tim Walz takes responsibility for none of the disasters that have occurred on his watch. Instead, he lies in order to deflect them onto innocent parties.

Maybe the $240 million Feeding Our Future scandal–and the knowledge that Walz lied about it to save his own skin–will be the impetus for voters to usher in a new administration that will sweep out the corruption of the old.

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