‘Brazen Attempt at Vote Buying’: Trump Now Requiring Boxes of Federal Food Aid Include Letters From Him Taking Credit

‘Brazen Attempt at Vote Buying’: Trump Now Requiring Boxes of Federal Food Aid Include Letters From Him Taking Credit

“In my 30 years of doing this work, I’ve never seen something this egregious,” Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, tells Politico. “These are federally purchased boxes.”

Politico calls it “the latest example of Trump using the levers of government and taxpayer dollars for self-promotion as he runs for re-election.”

“These guys should be handing out food and instead they’re talking to campaign attorneys because of these damn letters,” says Eric Kessler, founder of Arabella Advisors, a philanthropy consulting firm. Politico describes him as a “longtime player in Democratic politics.”

The letters are not subtle.

“As President, safeguarding the health and well-being of our citizens is one of my highest priorities,” the letter, in English and Spanish, reads. “As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

They are signed in Trump’s famous big black marker scrawl.

The White House – not the Trump campaign – this week is promoting the program, and very clearly giving President Trump all the credit, on social media.

The $1 billion are taxpayer funds.

There is more at the link above.   Hugs

Again tRump lies to stoke anger in his base and fear in the people

Now in Government Food Aid Boxes: A Letter From Donald Trump

https://www.propublica.org/article/now-in-government-food-aid-boxes-a-letter-from-donald-trump/amp

Democrats say the letter violates the law against using government resources to campaign. It’s just the latest example of President Trump using his office to boost his reelection hopes.

Democrats say the letter violates the law against using government resources to campaign. It’s just the latest example of President Trump using his office to boost his reelection hopes.

“Using a federal relief program to distribute a self-promoting letter from the President to American families just three months before the presidential election is inappropriate and a violation of federal law,” argued 49 House Democrats led by Marcia Fudge of Ohio in an August 14 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, requesting information about the purpose and process behind Trump’s letter. “A public health crisis is not an opportunity for the administration to promote its own political interests. Likewise, a federal food assistance program should not be used as a tool for the President to exploit taxpayer dollars for his re-election campaign.”

Past administrations have observed the Hatch Act with strict firewalls between campaign and official events and admonitions against officials’ making any statements or taking actions that could appear political. The Trump administration, however, has routinely flouted this law. In addition to using the White House for convention speeches by the president and first lady, Trump and other officials also conducted a naturalization ceremony and a pardon as part of the Republican National Convention, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech from a diplomatic trip to Israel. White House adviser Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act so many times that the independent Office of Special Counsel recommended she be fired. (She wasn’t, and said she’d leave the White House in August for family reasons.)

But coming so close to an election, the implication of the letter was not lost on anyone. Some food banks expressed concern that the letter looked too much like a political endorsement, which tax-exempt nonprofit organizations aren’t allowed to make.

“As a non-profit, we would have to take the letter out of the boxes if they were included because we can’t publicly support political candidates,” Mark Quandt, the executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, said in an email.

Trump’s letter purports to reinforce public health measures against the coronavirus, urging people to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the letter’s advice contradicts the CDC’s actual guidelines on face coverings, which Trump has resisted despite expert consensus. The letter says to “consider wearing a face covering when in public,” whereas the CDC says more definitively, “Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.”

Aside from the letter, the food box program has come under fire for relying on questionable vendors and failing to match supplies with needs. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus is investigating the selection and performance of distribution companies that the USDA hired to implement the program, including several that lacked a requisite license to deal in fresh produce.

At least one contract, for $40 million, was canceled; the vendor, Ben Holtz, said he’s still negotiating a settlement with the USDA. Others have been extended or added. Only 70% of vendors fulfilled at least 90% of their orders, Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach testified at a July 21 congressional hearing.

Ibach also acknowledged that the program “underserved” some regions because regional equity wasn’t a factor in the USDA contractor selection.

“Although Congress allocated billions of dollars to distribute food to Americans in need, I am concerned that the Trump Administration’s management of this critical effort has been marred by questionable contracting practices, a lack of accountability, and a failure to deliver food to many communities that need it most,” the coronavirus subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., said in an August 24 letter to Perdue. “Rather than focusing on addressing these problems, the Administration appears to be seeking political benefits from the program, including by inserting a letter signed by President Trump in food boxes.”

More at the link above.   Hugs