MDE wins Golden Turkey Award for $250 million fraud scheme

Other nominees for the award included a $1.3 million grant for encouraging kids to play outside and $20,000 in spending for a video that advised Minnesotans to eat sauerkraut to fight COVID-19.

Center of the American Experiment

(Center of the American Experiment) — Poor management and oversight by the Minnesota Department of Education of a pandemic-related food program won them the fourth annual Golden Turkey Award, given by Center of the American Experiment.

Indictments related to the program have identified $250 million in fraud, and that number is likely to grow as the FBI and U.S. Attorney continue their investigation. One thing that won’t need investigating (or a recount) is the final vote tally for this year’s award, with Feeding Our Fraud winning almost 80% of the online vote. Almost 3,000 Minnesotans participated in this year’s contest.

The Golden Turkey Award is a lighthearted contest that brings much-needed attention to the budget and allows Minnesotans to weigh in on the silliest spending of the year. Past winners include Gov. Tim Walz’s $6.9 million unused morgue, an extravagant rest stop on Highway 35, and an expensive bus stop that sits empty.

“It’s easy to see how the Feeding Our Future fraud program won this year’s Golden Turkey with the sheer size of the fraud, with at least $250 million stolen from the taxpayers,” said John Hinderaker, president of Center of the American Experiment. “While most nominees for this award are merely silly or wasteful, this program was actually criminal.”

Fraudsters at nonprofits like Feeding Our Future and Partners In Nutrition used computer programs to generate fake children’s names and enroll them in the federally-funded free meal program. Sites were allegedly run out of small offices claiming to feed thousands of meals a day. Bureaucrats at MDE ignored their duty to oversee the program and failed to make routine site visits that would have exposed the fraud immediately. Millions of dollars were stolen before the FBI finally stepped in and shut it down in January 2022.

But not before the fraudsters bought luxury cars, boats, houses and trips. Worse yet, a lot of the stolen money left the county and will never be recovered.

The other nominees for the 2022 Golden Turkey Award include:

Runner up: $1.3 million to pay kids to go outside

Most kids used to play outside voluntarily. Now we need a state program. The Department of Natural Resources’ No Child Left Inside program awarded $1.3 million to 153 organizations in 2022. Nominations are currently open for another round of grants in 2023. Clearly, we have money to burn if there is a state grant program to encourage children to play outside.

Third place: $6,000 grants for self-love, strippers and dancing in the dark

The Creative Support for Individuals grant fund handed out $6,000 grants to help “Minnesota artists and culture bearers sustain their practice and stay relevant and connected to audiences.” You know, the audiences that disappeared when the very same state government shut everything down. And when we say handed out grants, we mean it. The Arts Board distributed $3.1 million to 525 grantees. Judging by the winners, it’s hard to imagine they turned anyone down.

Fourth place: $20,000 to promote outrageous home remedies for COVID-19

Forget about ventilators, masks, test kits and vaccines. During the height of the pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz’s Department of Health spent $19,700 on the real solution to COVID-19: sauerkraut. The grant also funded a video seen by a mere 17 people titled, “Traditional Ways of Health and Wellness: How to stay healthy during Covid-19 and beyond,” as well as “wellness bundles” full of herbal teas, dried sage, dried sweetgrass, and immunity-supporting lozenges.

Southwest Light Rail boondoggle receives Golden Turkey Lifetime Achievement Award

At $500 million under budget and almost 10 years behind schedule, this is one of the biggest boondoggles we’ve ever seen and it’s going straight to the hall of fame.


Center of the American Experiment