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Nominee Promises Politics-Free Census

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama's nominee to serve as director of the U.S. Census Bureau ruled out the use of statistical adjustments in next year's Census and said he would resign in the face of potential political influence.

Robert Groves
Robert Groves, President Obama's nominee to serve as director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The director of a federal statistical agency must be able to speak freely on scientific matters unfettered by political influences. If confirmed, I intend to do so," Robert M. Groves told senators Friday morning. He promised a transparent relationship with lawmakers and other Census stakeholders to safeguard the bureau against political activity.

Seeking to allay fears of congressional Republicans concerned with potential White House interference, Groves said he would resign if faced with political pressures, and in response to a question from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said he would then actively fight political interference at the Census Bureau if he had to step down.

Once a supporter of statistical adjustment, Groves said it is not an option for next year's Census since the Supreme Court has banned its use in congressional reapportionment.

Obama tapped Groves, 60, to serve as Census director in early April. Currently the director of the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, he is considered a leading expert on survey methodology and previously served as the Census Bureau’s associate director from 1990 to 1992.

Republicans have paid close attention to the Groves nomination, devoting more ink and rhetoric to his selection than most of Obama's more high-profile nominees. GOP concerns stem from suggestions earlier this year that the Census director would report to the commerce secretary and senior White House aides, a suggestion the White House later rejected. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) cited those suggestions as one of the reasons he removed his name from consideration to serve as commerce secretary.

In a statement issued this morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele warned the Obama administration against any political interference. Earlier this year, House Republicans established a special Census Task Force to track potential White House involvement. Despite these concerns, Collins was the lone Republican senator at today's hearing and appeared only briefly to question Groves.

In addition to political concerns, Groves faces several budgetary, procedural and technological challenges. Next year’s census will cost at least $15 billion, the most expensive ever. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said during the hearing that the Census will cost the taxpayers $100 per American household to count everyone.

In an effort to avoid an undercount of minority groups, the bureau will devote an unprecedented $250 million next year to advertising and outreach programs to help boost participation levels. National Hispanic groups have said they will keep close tabs on the Census efforts to count Latinos.

House lawmakers have also proposed legislation that would separate the Census Bureau from the Commerce Department, establishing it as an independent agency. The bill would also grant future Census directors fixed five year terms, a move Groves said he supports.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 15, 2009; 12:11 PM ET
Categories:  Census, Confirmation Hearings  
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Judd Gregg was eager to accept the Commerce position until he 'learned' the WH had other intentions. He knew the 'game' and became 'upset' with the 'supposed power play' by the demos. At best he is a hypocrite; at worse, a sleaze ball tripped up by 'hearsay'. dxmfrr

Posted by: yamamah | May 15, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

More Big Red Lie. How can the census be "politics free" if ACORN has been engaged to assist?

I don't understand what virus or other process attacks politicians once they cross into D.C. and get behind their big executive desks in the corner office. It's a pernicious, aggressive malady that instantly makes them all think, "The voters are idiots, and I can tell them anything I want and they will believe it because I say it."

In Obama's case, he caught the virus long before he actually got to Washington.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | May 15, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

How does Mr. Groves protect the census from Rahm Emanuel and the ACORNS? Rahm, you will recall, wanted the project supervised by his office. Emanuel does NOT forgive.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | May 15, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I worked for the 2010 Bureau of the Census in April and May 2009. Part of my job was to train people on the Harris hand held computer (made in Taiwan), known in the field as the "trusty G.P.O.S." or "geographical positioning system".

Recently, the 2010 Bureau of the Census purchased 155,000 Harris hand-held GPOS's for $700 million and hired 140,000 people to collect the latitude and longitude of the 145 million front porches in America.

The government now has a database with every residential address accurately linked to its exact physical location. And the ability to launch a small robot drone helicopter with a camera (or a canon) to check out how many people live at your house. What if terrorists hack the database or print out the list?

The census is supposed to count people, not geographically locate house addresses.

Why not have every person in America walk out into the street at the same time and look up into the sky? The Bureau of Census already uses ridiculous secure laptops with "need to know" high-resolution satellite photos on CD's. They already have the technology to count faces on aerial photographs.

In addition to being a threat to national security, the 2010 Bureau of the Census is a massive "make work" project run amok. It would be easier to drive around in a truck and toss out money. Who is responsible for this?

Posted by: JackCarpenter | May 16, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

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