Food Stamp Fliers Threaten To Name People On Government Benefits

09/04/2013 02:31 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2013

An unknown person has been leafletting Portland, Ore., neighborhoods with fliers that threaten to publicly name local recipients of food stamps and disability benefits.

"There are twenty seven people in this neighborhood who vote and receive food stamps," said a flier distributed Monday, according to local TV station KPTV. "The names of these people are being posted where they can be seen by taxpayers and the neighborhood can decide who is truly in need of food."

No names have actually been posted. It's unclear how the leaflets' author would even have obtained such information.

"Names of recipients are not public records," Brooke Hardison, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told HuffPost. "Such information is only to be used for administration and enforcement of the program."

Last month, similar letters distributed in a different Portland neighborhood targeted recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance. "Benjamin Franklin said 'when the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic,'" the letter said, according to KPTV. "Some of us in the neighborhood wish to save this democracy and to stand in the way of those who would destroy it."

Both letters were signed, "Artemis of the wildland."

Local residents are not impressed. "To just use a broad brush and put every single person's name up there without really investigating any of the situations, I don't think that's right," neighbor Lauren Davidson told KPTV. Local police said they're interested in talking to the person distributing the fliers but told the Los Angeles Times that it's unlikely any crime has been committed.

Food stamps and disability benefits are favorite targets of conservatives, and the leaflets come as Congress debates proposals to pare back the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Food stamp spending has surged since the Great Recession made millions more Americans eligible for assistance, but resentment of people receiving benefits has often colored debate over the program. A forthcoming Republican bill would trim spending by about 5 percent, or $40 billion over 10 years.

The Franklin quote is a popular one among conservatives, who have mistakenly attributed it to pretty much every Founding Father. Its actual provenance, much like the fliers in Portland, is unknown.

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