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Mnnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, there is no way to please everyone in considering how to allow farmers to mow roadside ditches. Don Davis / Forum News Service

'He finagled the system': Gov. Dayton blasts millionaire who took food stamps to make a point

ST. PAUL — A wealthy Minnesotan who signed up for food stamps to prove people could get them even if they did not need assistance should be ashamed of himself, Gov. Mark Dayton said.

"He finagled the system," Dayton said Thursday, April 12, about Rob Undersander of Waite Park, who says he is a millionaire and took food stamps for 19 months to make a point. "How easy it is? He's a smart guy, a millionaire, he obviously figured out. I mean, one person can game the system."

Undersander testified on Wednesday that he wanted to prove that people who have plenty of money still can get food stamps, meant for the poor. He received about $300 a month, when some poor people got $14.

He told a House health and human services committee that what he did was perfectly legal. He said that since Minnesota does not account for assets when determining who gets food stamps, what he has built up over the years was not considered. Much of the money he did receive in the 19 months he got food stamps did not count as income, such as Roth individual retirement account payments.

Undersander said he donated what he received to charities, his church and the needy.

"If I were him I would have been ashamed to show up and disclose what I'd done," a fired-up Dayton said. "It's not instructive."

Democrats on the House committee said much the same thing, with one lawmaker saying he wished Undersander could be prosecuted.

Republicans praised him for trying to bring to light flaws in the system.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, has some steps to take before his bill reaches a House vote, but a similar bill may never receive a Senate vote.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the Senate priority in the area is on a bill to encourage Minnesotans receiving state-funded medical care to get jobs if they are able bodied. He did not appear optimistic that a bill like Undersander supported would pass.

Reaction Forum News Service has received since breaking the Undersander story Wednesday has been strongly in favor of him coming forward. Several emails suggested that lawmakers should look into other government programs for similar loopholes.

"Those in need should get assistance," Howe said, adding that Minnesotans "with considerable assets" should not receive the federally funded aid.

During the Tuesday hearing, several Democrats said they did not like what Undersander did.

However, he said, he accomplished his goal. "I have obviously gotten your attention."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.