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Big Retailers Don’t Want You To Know How Much Their Stores Earn From Food Stamps

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A local newspaper wants to know exactly how much money retail stores earn from food stamp transactions, and the retail food industry is fighting the disclosure all the way to the Supreme Court.

Last week, Justice Neil Gorsuch temporarily stayed a lower court’s order requiring the government to cough up the data. Now grocers have a chance to try to convince the Supreme Court to take the case.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the federal government’s most responsive economic safety net, giving 40 million Americans a monthly food allowance that can only be spent at food stores and farmers markets. The program dishes out $60 billion in benefits annually, which amounts to a significant portion of retail stores’ income.

Throughout the program’s history, politicians and news reporters have obsessed over what people purchase with their benefits. In the 1970s, President Ronald Reagan speechified about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks, a fist-shaking tradition Republicans have continued to this day. The benefits used to be distributed on actual stamps but now go on debit cards that are still highly visible in checkout lines.

The legal case is more about who is selling the food than what the beneficiaries are buying. The Argus Leader, a newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filed a records request for store-level SNAP spending data in 2011. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, didn’t hand over the details, the paper sued.

“Taxpayers need to know where their money is spent,” Cory Myers, the Argus Leader’s news director, said earlier this year. “This information has importance beyond South Dakota as SNAP is one of the nation’s biggest safety net programs.”

The USDA already provides some detail about where food stamps go. Half of all benefits were spent at superstores like Walmart in 2017. Nearly 30 percent were used at supermarkets like Safeway. More than 258,000 firms were authorized to accept SNAP benefits that year. The USDA has also put out detailed information about what people buy.

The Argus Leader wants to know exactly how much was spent and at exactly which stores. The government argued that disclosing dollar figures for individual firms would hurt their business and that the details should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Courts sided with the paper and the USDA gave up on the case, but then retail trade associations swooped in with additional appeals. Among other things, the Food Marketing Institute argued that negative attitudes toward food stamp recipients could cause landlords to increase rent when they learn their tenants process government benefits.

“The stigma might also cause non-SNAP recipients to avoid stores with high SNAP volume, either because of beliefs about the store or a fear of being perceived as SNAP customers,” the Food Marketing Institute told an appeals court in 2017.

Stewart Fried, an attorney for the National Grocers Association, argued in an August 2017 brief that retailers would stop accepting SNAP benefits. He said the disclosure “does not shed light on what the federal government is up to,” since so much detail is already available. Additionally, he said, “gaining access to a competitor’s store-level sales data is the holy grail of the retail food industry,” because the information can influence decisions about where to open new stores.

So far, courts have not agreed, calling the stigma argument “speculative” and saying releasing the data seems unlikely to hurt anyone’s business too much. Gorsuch has given retailers a chance to argue this month that the disclosure should be further delayed so the court can consider whether to take the case.

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Finding Uncensored Political News Online

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The time was once that we were seriously limited as to the news we received.  Newspapers in the old days had to try to offer a balanced perspective – all sides of the story in a quite limited space.  Television and radio news had the same limitations – and they had a very short amount of time allotted to cover everything that was going on in the world at any given time.  These were not the only limitations either.  News sources could only afford to print so many pages and only a select few people were qualified to be reporters or journalists.  Now days though, this has changed considerably.  With the advent of the internet, we can get our news much faster and there are not nearly as many time and space limitations to contend with.  Because of these things, we now have a multitude of political blogs and political news sites to choose from for a daily dose of news and current events.

Nowadays, we can choose from any number of Republican blogs, for example, for our news.  With a Republican blog, we are likely to get more new news on Donald Trump than we might get from differently affiliated political news sites.  If you want thorough, Republican coverage for “Trump trade war,“ you can probably find it faster on Republican blogs than you can on otherwise affiliated blogs.

Of course, if you prefer to vote non-partisan, that is – not limited to or affiliated with a specific party, there are a number of political news sites out there for you as well.  It is still important, especially if you are nonpartisan, to read from as many Republican blogs as you can, as well as political news sites that are affiliated with the other political parties out there.  You see, if you are dedicated to any specific political party, you will be limited to that party’s candidates when it comes time to vote so you do not need to worry about what all of the other parties are doing.  If you are nonpartisan, however, you can vote for any candidate from any party that you choose – that means that you need to be considerably more informed than someone who is party-affiliated.  The best way to be thoroughly informed is to read news from as many political news sites as you can – that will give you exposure to more of the candidates and political parties that are out there as well as more perspectives on all of the issues that are going on in this country.

No matter where your political line might lie, it is always a good plan to gather a variety of information from political blogs or political news sites.  At the very least, you will know what your opponents are up to if you read political blogs from parties other than your own.  Whether you prefer Republican blogs or not, the important thing is to stay informed to the best of your ability – otherwise, you cannot hope to be an informed and responsible voter!

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Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor and former GOP presidential candidate, loses reelection bid

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Democrat Andrew Gillum was defeated in his bid to become Florida’s first black governor Tuesday, but the party flipped at least seven governorships after voters rejected some Republican candidates in the Midwest and the Sun Belt, including in Wisconsin, Kansas and New Mexico.

At times choking up during a speech at Florida A&M University, Gillum conceded his race to Republican Ron DeSantis, who is closely associated with President Trump.

“I sincerely regret that I couldn’t bring it home for you,” he told his supporters.

Gillum performed relatively well in Florida’s cities and suburbs. But DeSantis won massive margins from Florida’s rural counties, underscoring the advantage Republicans continue to hold in statewide elections there.

“Throughout the campaign, I knew the only thing I could control was how hard I worked,” DeSantis said in his victory speech. “And although I was confident in achieving a victory, I was at peace knowing I worked as hard as I possibly could, and I left everything out on the field.”

Including Florida’s, the 36 gubernatorial races on state ballots offered examples of America’s cultural and ideological divides under Trump.

Democrats flipped the governorships in Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico. The race remained too close to call in Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams was running to become the first African American female governor.

In Wisconsin, Democrat Tony Evers bested Gov. Scott Walker, once a Republican star who ran for president in 2016. Walker survived a hard-fought recall vote in 2012, and was reelected in 2014, only to be denied a third term by the state schools superintendent.

In recent years, Walker has faced mounting voter concern about the condition of Wisconsin schools, but he also oversaw a robust state economy, including a 3 percent unemployment rate.

In Kansas, Democrat Laura Kelly defeated Secretary of State Kris Kobach, another Trump ally who is known for his unapologetic, hard-line views on immigration and who was the face of Trump’s anti-voter-fraud panel.

“This has been a battle to the finish,” Kobach said during his concession speech. “Headwinds all the way for our team. But that’s all right. We fought as hard as we could into those headwinds.”

In Illinois, Democrat J.B. Pritzker easily defeated Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) after one of the nation’s most expensive gubernatorial elections. Democrats also won the governorship in Michigan, where Gretchen Whitmer, a former state legislator, defeated Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to replace term-limited Gov Rick Snyder (R).

The Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, was also term-limited, and will be replaced by Democrat Steve Sisolak, who won out over Republican Adam Laxalt. “Today, people from every corner of the state stood up and turned out to stay it’s time to bring people together,” Sisolak, a businessman and county commissioner, told supporters in a victory speech. “It’s time to prioritize our schools, our jobs and our health care. It’s time to stop the petty politics and get things done.”

New Mexico voters selected Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. And in Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage (R) is term-limited, Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills defeated Republican Shawn Moody, a businessman.

But Democrats were nervously watching results in several other states. Abrams was trailing in her bid for Georgia’s governorship against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a conservative Republican whose office has been accused of trying to suppress voter turnout. Kemp had a sizeable lead, but some counties had yet to complete counts in the Atlanta metro area.

In a speech early Monday morning, Abrams refused to concede the race and said she was prepared to face Kemp in a runoff.

“If I wasn’t your first choice, or if you didn’t make a choice at all, you’re going to have a chance to do a do-over,” said Abrams, who referenced attacks on voting rights that threatened minority votes in recent weeks.

“Some have worked hard to scare us away,” she said, “but we see the finish line.”

Republicans currently hold 33 of the nation’s 50 governorships. Of the 36 gubernatorial races on the ballot Tuesday, Republicans were defending 26 of them.

The outcomes of those contests will have major implications for Democratic efforts to build a state-level firewall against some of Trump’s policies, including his effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act and gut environmental and labor laws. In most states, governors and state legislatures will be drawing new congressional boundaries after the 2020 Census.

Several of the most hotly contested gubernatorial races took place in Midwestern states that formed the linchpin of Trump’s 2016 victory. Democratic leaders in those states view those contests as a major test of whether the party can win back the white working-class voters who abandoned the party in droves that year.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) beat Republican Scott Wagner, a former state legislator, in a state Trump carried by 44,000 votes two years ago.

In Ohio, Democrat Richard Cordray, a former Obama administration official, lost to Republican Mike DeWine for the seat left open by term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R). The contest was widely viewed as a dead heat heading into Tuesday as Cordray and DeWine, the attorney general of Ohio, battled over health care, jobs and the state’s opioid crisis.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell.

Iowa has been trending Republican, including supporting Trump by about 10 percentage points in 2016. Hubbell sought to take advantage of voter unease over access to health insurance and the president’s trade war with China, which could impact the state’s agricultural community.

Republicans had additional reasons for optimism on Tuesday.

On the East Coast, Republican Govs. Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Phil Scott of Vermont, all moderates, won reelection.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) defeated his Democratic challenger, Steve Marchand, the former mayor of Portsmouth.

Republicans also saw an opportunity to win back the governor’s mansion in Connecticut, where incumbent Dannel P. Malloy (D) decided not to seek a third term.

Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, both businessmen, battled in a race that heavily focused on taxes and the state’s projected $2 billion budget deficit.

In Oklahoma, Democrat Drew Edmondson lost to Republican businessman Kevin Stitt, who campaigned as a strong supporter of Trump.

And in South Dakota, Democrat Billie Sutton — a former rodeo star who was paralyzed in a 2007 riding accident — lost to Republican Rep. Kristi L. Noem.

The Democratic incumbent who seemed most at risk of losing this year was Gov. Kate Brown (D) in Oregon, but she handily beat her opponent, Republican Knute Buehler.

Robert Samuels in Tallahassee, Vanessa Williams in Atlanta, and Annie Gowen, Scott Clement and Isaac Stanley-Becker in Washington contributed to this report.

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2018 Elections

Trump readies for 2020 campaign with no plans to change his approach

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President Trump plans to quickly focus on his reelection campaign following Tuesday’s midterm elections, believing his brand of divisive and confrontational politics will mobilize his supporters and carry him to a second term.

Fresh off an 11-rally, six-day campaign swing through key conservative states, Trump has begun talking about holding Make America Great Again rallies early next year, two of the president’s advisers said. He continues to judge his success by crowd sizes — which were large throughout his recent campaign blitz — and applause. Even as he was on the trail for other Republicans, Trump often focused on himself, touting his accomplishments and taking shots at potential Democratic presidential challengers.

But it’s an open question whether Trump can re-create the coalition of voters and swing-state victories that delivered him the White House — particularly on the same hard-line themes he relied on during the 2016 campaign and the first two years of his presidency. Trump didn’t campaign throughout the country ahead of the midterms, instead spending the bulk of his time in conservative territory where he remains popular while staying away from the suburban districts that helped hand Democrats control of the House on Tuesday.

“There is a certain segment of the population that has totally bought into the arguments he’s making and the way he’s making them, but it’s not a majority of the population,” said Michael Steel, who was an adviser to onetime House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

Trump is preparing to portray Tuesday’s results in the best possible light, focusing on keeping control of the Senate and some victories in gubernatorial races.

“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all,” he tweeted Tuesday night.

But there were plenty of warning signs flashing for Trump despite his positive rhetoric.

Along with losing the House, Republicans also couldn’t flip Senate seats in PennsylvaniaOhio and Wisconsin — key parts of the industrial Midwest that helped hand Trump the presidency in 2016 but where the GOP struggled to gain traction against strong Democratic incumbents this year. His poll numbers also remain mired around 40 percent.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who handily won reelection Tuesday, said in his victory speech that leaning into popular liberal policies, as he did in his own race, would be the “blueprint for our nation in 2020.”

“You showed the country that by putting people first and by honoring the dignity of work, we can carry a state Donald Trump won by nearly 10 points,” Brown said. “And you showed that we do it without compromising on women’s rights or civil rights or LGBTQ rights.”

To deal with the loss of the House, the president’s political aides were encouraging allies to characterize the setback as the result of historical trends and retirements rather than as an indictment of Trump, according to a person in contact with the White House. The White House has prepared detailed numbers on past midterm cycles to back up its case, this person said.

“I don’t know what else the White House could have done about it,” said Marc Short, Trump’s former legislative affairs director. “You have a record number of retirements in the House. We knew that months ago.”

Midterm elections are not necessarily an indicator of how a president will fare in a bid for a second term — President Barack Obama was dealt major losses in his first midterms in 2010 and then handily won reelection two years later.

Trump has shown no inclination that he’ll moderate his tactics ahead of 2020. Instead, he’ll probably be emboldened by a Democratic House, filled with members who will be hungry to investigate his administration and possibly launch impeachment proceedings against him, advisers said.

The president has started talking about how he would battle a potential Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was on track to lead House Democrats after losing the speaker’s gavel eight years ago. While his advisers have grown worried that he is not prepared for the onslaught of investigations, he has taken some pleasure in saying he will have a foil in House Democrats. At the same time, advisers said Trump might be open to dealing with the opposition party on certain issues and will probably welcome meetings with Pelosi more than some of his aides would like.

Pelosi’s spokesman said Trump called Pelosi on Tuesday night and acknowledged her call for “bipartisanship” in a speech to Democratic supporters.

Many Republicans are eager to continue to promote Pelosi as a political nemesis.

“There’s no question she was one of the biggest villains in the election for Republicans,” said Scott Jennings, a former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who also worked in the George W. Bush White House. “So if she’s in charge, she’s already at a place in her own image where Trump can turn her into a great foil for the next two years, and the American people would probably appreciate it very much if he worked with Mitch McConnell to stop some of her worst impulses.”

Trump has taken several lessons from the midterm elections, according to his advisers, including that Congress is not as popular as he is and that immigration continues to rile up his base.

Trump gets regular briefings on what his numbers are in key districts and compares them with congressional candidates and what his numbers were in 2016. In private conversations with allies, he has shown no willingness to tone it down — instead talking about how he can ramp up his rhetoric and complaining that other Republicans are not following his lead.

“Are we going to win Pennsylvania?” he asked advisers recently on Air Force One as they traveled to the state that was key to shattering the Democrats’ “blue wall” in 2016.

In some ways, the president’s 2020 operation is more organized than other parts of his White House. Trump brought on Brad Parscale, who served as his digital media director on his 2016 campaign, in March, and a host of White House aides — including Justin Clark, the head of the Office of Public Liaison — are expected to transition to the campaign in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign and affiliated committees have raised more than $106 million, stashing away a massive sum and at an earlier time than his predecessors at this point in their presidencies.

At the White House on Tuesday evening, Trump assembled a crew of top-tier donors and political allies to watch the election returns — including billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, financier Stephen Schwarzman and real estate magnate Richard LeFrak — after spending the day on the phone and monitoring key congressional and gubernatorial races nationwide.

Corey Lewandowski, his first campaign manager, and David Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager, were also there, as were Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, political director Bill Stepien and senior aide Johnny DeStefano.

“The president has energized a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds at rallies across the country,” Sanders said as the polls began to close Tuesday night.

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