by Evan Stambaugh
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Scott Jensen has accused Gov. Tim Walz and his administration of a “cover-up” in the Feeding Our Future scandal and called for the appointment of a special investigator.
Jensen held a press conference Monday in response to Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann’s correction of “inaccurate statements by the Governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the media regarding the investigation of Feeding Our Future (FOF) and resulting federal indictments.”
In a Friday news release approved by Guthmann, the Minnesota Judicial Branch clarified that, contrary to various remarks by the Walz administration and even the governor himself, Guthmann never ordered the Department of Education (MDE) to resume payments to Feeding Our Future. The MDE did resume payments voluntarily in April 2021.
As of this week, 49 Minnesotans connected to the Feeding Our Future scandal have been charged for their roles in allegedly defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition Programs of at least $250 million. The MDE has been placed under the microscope because the department administered federal reimbursements from those programs.
Jensen called on Walz to apologize to all Minnesotans, including families who relied on Feeding Our Future and the media, for his and his administration’s rhetoric about a district court order that was never issued.
“Minnesotans expect honesty from their government officials, and Tim Walz let us down,” he said. “We have reached the point where an independent investigation into the Walz administration’s involvement is warranted.”
“At the end of the day, Minnesotans need to understand that the waste and fraud associated with Feeding our Future’s program diminishes our state’s reputation for excellence in government,” Jensen added. “And, even the media, in their efforts to uncover the truth, have been stonewalled and deceived.”
According to a campaign news release, the family physician turned gubernatorial candidate said he would consider former legislative auditor Jim Nobles as a special investigator into the alleged cover-up, given his experience as an “independent, nonpartisan expert in investigating and auditing government.”
According to WCCO Radio, Walz is “not willing to talk to reporters right now” about the issue.
The Feeding Our Future scandal has become a major campaign issue not just for Walz, but Minnesota Democrats in general.
Attorney general candidate Jim Schultz, a Republican political newcomer looking to unseat Keith Ellison, demanded “immediate answers” from his opponent on his office’s conduct vis-à-vis the major fraud pertaining to the scandal.
“The litany of serious mistakes is long, and it is damning. It would not have taken Sherlock Holmes to crack this case before hundreds of millions were stolen,” Schultz said in a Monday statement. “Either Ellison demonstrated unbelievable incompetence in failing to halt such fraud, or Keith Ellison simply looked the other way to secure campaign contributions for himself and fellow Democrats or for some other disturbing motive.”
Ellison addressed his oversight of Feeding Our Future in a lengthy statement issued by his office Monday.
“Early on, the Attorney General’s Office worked side by side with MDE to flag evidence of fraud, demand correction from Feeding Our Future, defend MDE from Feeding Our Future’s scurrilous lawsuit — and most importantly, bring evidence of criminal fraud to the FBI, which led directly to the federal criminal investigation and criminal indictments of Feeding Our Future for fraud,” said spokesperson John Stiles.
Ryan Wilson, running for state auditor, accused incumbent Julie Blaha of failing to help stop Feeding Our Future’s fraud.
“The combination of a critical audit not being reviewed by Blaha, while at the same time the Minnesota Department of Education was in litigation with Feeding Our Future, which Blaha admits to being aware of at the time, is a glaring red flag that was missed,” Wilson said Monday. “Blaha had an opportunity to use her role as the State Auditor to raise the issue and protect these programs and taxpayers, yet she inexplicably failed to do so. Blaha owes Minnesotans an explanation for her inaction and silence.”
In response to a prior statement of Wilson’s last week, Blaha accused him of “misleading voters” about the nature of her office and “chasing headlines.” She said that the Feeding Our Future scandal does not fall under the purview of the state auditor, but the legislative auditor instead.
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Evan Stambaugh is a freelance writer who had previously been a sports blogger. He has a BA in theology and an MA in philosophy.
Photo “Scott Jensen” by Scott Jensen.