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Self-described millionaire collected thousands in food stamps to make point about SNAP

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Rob Undersander, a self-described millionaire says he legally qualified for food stamps and took them to prove the system is vulnerable to abuse.

Undersander, who lives in Waite Park, Minn., told a legislative committee Wednesday that he and his wife collected about $6,000 in benefits they didn't need over 19 months, then gave the equivalent to charity. He testified that he has property and savings that would amount to more than a million dollars.

"I [collected food stamps] primarily to make a point and raise public awareness to ensure that the truly needy receive the benefits that are available, and that's not happening right now," Undersander said in a recent interview with MPR News host Tom Crann.

Undersander said he's not opposed to the food stamp program, now called SNAP, he said he just wants it to go to the right people.

"I received up to $341 per month for the household and that is way above the average," he said. "And part of the reason that's above the average is because the SNAP benefit computations look at net income."

Minnesota doesn't use a person's assets to determine food-stamp eligibility. Undersander said they qualified because his retirement income was low. 

"Our house payment, a large house payment on a relatively large house, actually qualified us for more benefits. Which I think is kind of crazy," Undersander said.

He was testifying Wednesday for a bill to require that assets be counted.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday joined other Democrats in condemning Undersander's actions.

Dayton said, "If I were him I would have been ashamed to show up and disclose what I'd done."

He said public policy shouldn't be made on anecdotes.