Just to set up and examine the Obama administration’s principles, it came into power with the president promising to deliver the most transparent administration ever. It then proceeded to push the DISCLOSE Act, which would force groups opposed to the president’s agenda to disclose their donor lists. Such disclosures could subject those donors to harassment from leftwing groups and the administration itself. One group did have its donor list leaked by the IRS to its opponents on an issue, in violation of the law. The disclosure is a felony. No one has been investigated or prosecuted in that case.
The IRS also leaked the applications of nine conservative groups to their enemies. No prosecutions.
At the same time, the Obama administration has gone to court to keep some basic facts about the food stamp program secret. This is a program paid for by taxpayers and which can strongly impact election outcomes. Today, it lost that quest for secrecy.
In a ruling Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit turned down the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s arguments that a provision in federal law protecting retailers’ application information from disclosure also barred disclosure of how much the feds pay out to specific businesses.
“Because the retailer spending information is not ‘submit[ted]’ by ‘an applicant retail food store or wholesale food concern…’ the information is not exempt from disclosure. The department, not any retailer, generates the information, and the underlying data is ‘obtained’ from third-party payment processors, not from individual retailers,” Chief Judge William Jay Riley wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Steven Colloton and Jane Kelly.
The case started because a South Dakota newspaper sought details on the Obama administration’s handling of the food stamps program, which has grown wildly in the Obama years. The newspaper submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, and the US Department of Agriculture turned down the request. So the newspaper went to court, and the Obama administration defended the USDA’s position to keep the data secret. The Department of Justice went to bat for the USDA in this case, the same DOJ that is waging partisan lawsuits against voter ID and even refuses to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which was the settled law of the land. FOIA was settled law, too, but the administration that promised transparency is doing its best to unsettle it.