A $6 billion federal program created to provide fresh produce to families affected by the pandemic was mismanaged and used by the Trump administration for political gain, a new congressional report has found.
As a ProPublica investigation revealed last spring and as the new report further details, the Farmers to Families Food Box program gave contracts to companies that had no relevant experience and often lacked necessary licenses. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which released its report last week, found that former President Donald Trump’s administration did not adequately screen contractor applications or identify red flags in bid proposals.
Wait, what? Trump inappropriately used a benefits program for political gain? That doesn’t sound like him at all.
According to ProPublica, one $39 million contract went to a firm named CRE8AD8 (which is the most efficient way to render “Create a Date” if, for some reason, you need to get your full company name on a license plate). It’s a wedding and event planning firm, and the owner said the government project was similar to what they usually did—i.e., “putting tchotchkes in a bag.”
The report also stated that an avocado grower who had received a $40 million contract had taken an unorthodox approach when filling out the application. Under references, the applicant wrote, “I don’t have any.” Thankfully, that contract was canceled following a review.
Oh, and a Trump scandal can’t be complete if it’s just about wealthy people inappropriately receiving contracts. You need some crass and inappropriate electioneering, too!
The Food to Families program was created by the Department of Agriculture in the early days of the pandemic to give away produce that might have otherwise gone to waste as a result of disruptions in distribution chains. The boxes included produce, milk, dairy and cooked meats — and many also included a signed letter from then-President Trump.
Ooh, a signed letter from President Trump! Yeah, that’s what hungry people need. It’s not exactly like finding a deep-fried marmot in your bucket of Extra Crispy, but it’s in the ballpark.
Oh, and the cherry on top of the shite sundae? Ivanka Trump was reportedly instrumental in getting the letter added to the boxes. The USDA later told contractors in charge of distributing the food that it had to be included. “Foodbank operators told the investigators the letter concerned them because it didn’t appear to be politically neutral,” reported ProPublica.
Again, a real shocker.
ProPublica also reported that Trump and Ivanka appeared at an event on the first day of the 2020 Republican National Convention at which then-Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “encouraged attendees to reelect the president.”
Uh-huh. Totally normal. Nothing to see here.
Of course, when it comes to Trump, you’re not just going to get graft and illegal electioneering. Oh, no. You can also add some big, grody hunks of incompetence to this particular paella: The investigators uncovered problems related to food safety, failed deliveries, and uneven distribution of the boxes.
As committee chair Rep. James Clyburn noted, “The Program was marred by a structure that prioritized industry over families, by contracting practices that prioritized cutting corners over competence, and by decisions that prioritized politics over the public good.”
Hmm. Well, that’s pretty much the Trump maladministration in a nutshell.
And in case you were wondering, the program ended in May, under Joe Biden, who’s more interested in actually helping people than tricking them into thinking he cares.
It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.