The nonfeasance of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison led to the losses taxpayers sustained in the $250 million Feeding Our Future fraud, according to the Star Tribune story
“Could Minnesota officials have stopped Feeding our Future fraud sooner?” The story by reporters Jeffrey Meitrodt and Ryan Faircloth essentially answers the headline question in the affirmative. The headline question should have been reformulated as a declarative sentence: Attorney General Keith Ellison could have stopped Feeding Our Future fraud sooner.
• Ellison blames the United States Attorney for not shutting down the fraud: “[I]n statements to the Star Tribune this week, Ellison’s office pointed the finger at federal authorities for taking 17 months to issue indictments.” Call it the Freddie Prinze defense: “It’s not my job, man.”
• Ellison declined an interview request.
• “A Star Tribune review of state and federal records shows that Minnesota officials provided federal authorities with little or no evidence that Feeding Our Future was misappropriating government funds. The FBI had to build a case from scratch, obtaining records from “hundreds of bank accounts” and following the money to dozens of conspirators, according to search warrants filed in January.”
• “The Attorney General’s Office has broad authority to conduct civil fraud investigations and could have initiated its own probe or demanded the nonprofit’s bank records before the feds stepped in. Ellison’s office began representing the Education Department in court when Feeding Our Future sued the department in November 2020 for blocking its expansion plans. If Ellison’s office had used its investigative power to pull bank records, it could have found that the alleged conspirators paid at least $524,579 in bribes and laundered $3.2 million in program funds between July 2020 and March 2021, prior to the FBI’s involvement, according to a Star Tribune review of the federal indictments.”
• “Ellison did not launch his own investigation into Feeding Our Future until February 2022, after the nonprofit ceased operations and had pocketed about $250 million in federal funds.”
• “Partners [in Nutrition] also brought its concerns to the Attorney General’s office in 2018 and 2019, according to records released this week by Ellison’s spokesman. In the 2019 complaint. Partners Director Kara Lomen accused Bock of stealing electronic files, breaking recruitment rules and engaging in other illegal behavior. In response to both complaints, officials with the Attorney General’s Office suggested Partners officials take their concerns to other state and federal agencies, including the state Education Department, the Minnesota Secretary of State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the meals program at the federal level.”
• “Though court records show that state regulators were suspicious about the growing volume of reimbursement claims from Feeding Our Future, the [Minnesota Department of Education] and its representatives at the Attorney General’s Office never directly accused the nonprofit of fraud.”
• “Two former senior members of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, both Democrats who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, were critical of Ellison’s handling of the case. The two said the department could have used its broad investigative powers to collect bank records and other financial documents well before the feds got involved. They said that might have allowed the state to prove fraud and shut down Feeding Our Future before the bulk of payments were made.”
This is me talking now. The Feeding Our Future Fraud was massive, open, and obvious. The perpetrators flaunted the fraud.
Ellison’s nonfeasance was overdetermined. The perpetrators were almost entirely Somali immigrants — a core DFL constituency. Some were DFL contributors. Some were DFL officials. Ringleader Aimee Bock would cry discrimination if anyone tried to shut down the fraud. Ellison asked the United States Attorney to take the case long after he could and should have shut down the fraud. Now he blames the United States Attorney for not shutting it down faster.
Ellison also (absurdly) alleges that the United States Attorney prevented him from saying or doing anything about the fraud after he brought the case to them. The Star Tribune reporters omit that detail from their story today.
Over the 16 years that I have been writing about Ellison I have documented his shameless lying many times over. That too is open and obvious.
Today’s Star Tribune story makes a contribution to the Ellison saga. Any intelligent reader can pass judgment on Ellison’s refusal to do his job in this case.
The story adds another chapter to Ellison’s history of shameless lying. Yet the Star Tribune is itself guilty of nonfeasance in Ellison’s case. The paper has never pressed him on the lies on which he staked his political career. In September 2006, when Ellison was about to be elected to Congress, I had the Star Tribune in mind when I wrote “Keith Ellison for dummies.” I used “dummies” as a euphemism for something harsher.
The Star Tribune has never held Ellison to account or pressed him on the fabrications that undergird his career in politics. We can only hope he will be held to account on November 8.