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Ex-Census Director Prewitt Coming Back After All

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 5:07 p.m. ET

Former Census director Ken Prewitt will soon join the Commerce Department as an adviser to Secretary Gary Locke on census matters and as part of a team of experts that will deliver recommendations later this year to Robert Groves, the administration's nominee for Census director. The news has revived Republican concerns about the potential politicization of next year's decennial headcount.

Ken Prewitt
After withdrawing his name from consideration for Census director, former director Kenneth Prewitt will instead serve in an advisory role.

Earlier this year virtually everyone in the Census community (former directors, current and former employees and lawmakers) agreed that Prewitt was a leading candidate for the director's job. He all-but confirmed his interest in the job during conversations with the White House and in a February interview, but then suddenly withdrew from consideration with little explanation.

"Mr. Prewitt's back door entry into the management of the Census Bureau via his hiring by the Commerce Department would be a blatant disregard of the entire Senate confirmation process and an affront to the Senate's Constitutional Advice and Consent prerogative," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote yesterday in a letter to Locke. Issa asked that Locke provide information about the scope of Prewitt's work by May 1, including his compensation, who he will report to and his expected duties. The Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.

The Prewitt hiring was confirmed today by Commerce spokesman Kevin Griffis, who noted that the former Census director held a similar advisory position with Commerce Secretary Carlos Guitierrez in the final two years of the Bush administration.

Democratic lawmakers countered Republican concerns with strong support for Prewitt. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) called him "the Derek Jeter of Census taking."

"If someone does not want Dr. Prewitt’s experience to help on the Census you have to wonder it they want a good census," she said.

No date has been set for Groves's confirmation hearing, despite indications from Senate aides that a hearing would be held in early May.

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 28, 2009; 2:10 PM ET
Categories:  Census  
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