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Supreme Court rules against South Dakota newspaper in SNAP case

The Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.
The Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 24, 2019 at 9:31 AM CDT
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The Supreme Court is siding with businesses and the U.S. government in a ruling about the public's access to information.

The high court ruled Monday against a South Dakota newspaper that was seeking information about the government's food assistance program, previously known as food stamps.

The Argus Leader newspaper wanted to know how much money goes annually to every store nationwide that participates in the government's $65 billion-a-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, called SNAP.

Reporters asked the government for the information under the Freedom of Information Act. The justices sided with a supermarket trade association and the U.S. government, which argued against the information's release.

"We’re disappointed in today’s outcome, obviously," Argus Leader news director Cory Myers said in a statement. "This is a massive blow to the public’s right to know how its tax dollars are being spent, and who is benefiting. Regardless, we will continue to fight for government openness and transparency, as always."

FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin offered the following comments on the Supreme Court’s decision to remand the case, saying:

“Our industry’s commitment to the shopper remains constant amidst seismic marketplace shifts. The nation’s grocery stores have long kept confidential the amount consumers spend at individual stores whether through payment by cash, credit, debit or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. This store-level sales data undoubtedly must be considered confidential because its release would provide an unfair advantage to competitors. Legislative history tells us the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, was created to shine a light on actions by the government, not on that of private parties, and the Court’s expressed desire to refer our case back to the lower courts demonstrates that our case sets an important precedent well beyond disclosing store-level SNAP sales in grocery.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)