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Eye Opener: GOP to Bachmann: End Census Boycott

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! (Even better: Happy Getaway Day!) At some point last month, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she would refuse to fill out anything more than the number of people in her household on her Census questionnaire. She argued that questions other than how many people live in her home are unconstitutional and feared that political groups, including ACORN, might try to sway final Census numbers.

Republican colleagues have now called her boycott illogical and illegal.

“Every elected representative in this country should feel a responsibility to encourage full participation in the census. To do otherwise is to advocate for a smaller share of federal funding for our constituents," Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and John Mica (R-Fla.) said in a statement. The trio is members the House Census Oversight Subcommittee.

They argue that her boycott only increases the likelihood of political interference, because Census staffers and volunteers would have to visit her home to do a followup interview.

"Anyone who completes and returns their census form will remove any need for a census taker to visit their residence," the group said.

Census officials stress that the agency's community partners (including ACORN) might go door-to-door, but only to promote participation and not to collect personal information. Bachmann's statements also seemed to confuse the 2010 Decennial Census questionnaire with the American Community Survey, a longer questionnaire that gets randomly sent to households every year to ask a series of Census and economic questions.

Observers have called Bachmann's Census statements "wildly wrong" and her statements on various issues have raised Eyebrows before (there's even a blog that chronicles her activities). Still, her concerns about Census questionnaires are nothing new: several prominent Republican leaders have raised concerns in the past.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | July 2, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Eye Opener  
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Comments

I applaud Rep. Michele Bachmann's stand and support her completely.

Until such a time as this "Government" returns to a sane, Constitutional mode of governance, any assistance given should been considered adding and abetting a foreign power or agent of the same.

Any so called "Republican" who does not comprehend this simple concept needs to renounce his/her birthright and their American Citizenship...

No matter, by publicly coming out against Rep. Bachmann, they have all but done so.

Posted by: wannabersc | July 2, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Bachmann is right. The Constitutional authority to conduct a census exists only for the purpose of reapportioning Congress; any data not needed for that purpose may not be required.

Consider this: If we're all equal under the law, why should the FedGov need to know our genders, races, income levels, et al?

Posted by: Hedric | July 2, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Bad reporting! Nothing in the quote from the Republicans on the Census Oversight Committee says anything about theoretical illegality of Bachman's position, or her perspective being "illogical". It simply says they think she should feel some sort of personal responsibility to promote census participation.

But why not do some actual reporting and actually quote what the Constitution actually says about the census taking power of the federal government? Is she right? It's not hard to determine.

The mention of the word "census" is not in the Constitution. Only an "enumeration" - a population COUNT. It is listed in Article 1, Section 2, which deals with the House of Representatives. It's purpose is clearly described as being only to determine the number and allocation of federal representatives of the people in the individual states. It is NOT for the purpose of alocating federal money distribution - (most of which is in fact unconstitutional to boot.)

Here's the quote from the Constitution:

"The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."
Excerpt from Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constittuion,

It is also mentioned in passing in the 14th Amendment where again it solely deals with the allocation of federal representatives in the House to the people in the states.

From this it is explicitly clear that ONLY A COUNT is authorized by the Constitution and nothing else. Rep. Bachman is absolutely correct and this is easy for anyone who can read to see.

As a side note: The Tenth Amendment clearly states that only those powers expicitly enumerated in the Constitution are granted to the federal government and nothing more. This means if it's not clearly listed in the Constittution, the federal government cannot legitimately and lawfully do it. Therefore, any expansion of information gathering tied to the "enumeration" is un-Constitutional because such authority is not explicitly granted to the federal government by the Constitution.

Like many Americans, familiarizing onessself with the simple text of the Constitution would help our brave reporter, Ed, to understand Bachman's position. She's not a fruit loop, she simply can READ!

That using the census to gather information beyond a population count is unconstitutional is not a matter of opinion, its a matter of fact. Bachman is right. And, by the way, she is not promoting a "boycott" of the census as the article states, she is simply saying that she will not participate in providing any information beyond what the Constitution actually allows the federal government to require - information regarding a population enumeration - a count.

Posted by: gregniowa | July 2, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

greginiowa (and others),

You conveniently ignore a key part of the Constitution, which states "in such Manner as they shall by Law direct." And I'm afraid the Law directs you to fill out the census.

Posted by: mdot | July 2, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Bachmann has a history of idiocy. Every time she opens her mouth, she says something stupid and illogical so I'm not surprised about her position. I think she doees these things to get some press (and far right accolade). She can't be that stupid or is she?

Posted by: ersheido | July 2, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

mdot points out that the Constitution states "in such Manner as they shall by Law direct." And I'm afraid the Law directs you to fill out the census.

But the first part of the sentence clearly specifies this is true only in regards to the enumeration.

The Federal Government has no right to ask you for the additional information.

The right of privacy that emanates from the penumbra of the Constitution clearly gives individuals the right to decline giving any information beyond that required for the enumeration.

Posted by: NeverLeft | July 2, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Are we sure that Michele Bachmann wasn't created in a lab with DNA from the late Sen. Joe McCarthy? She's doing nothing more than stealing from his playbook. Is it something in the water up there in Wisconsin and Minnesota?

Posted by: sbrypar | July 2, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I highly encourage Ms. Bachmann to continue her stand. Her party has a long history of the empty grand gesture. She wants the klieg light-I say by all means. She is the Republican party personified, let's make sure everyone sees it.

Posted by: whereareweandwhatarewedoinginthishandbasket | July 2, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Michelle Bachman is a lunatic. She is 100% wrong on about 98% of the issues she takes a stance on (and parrots her colleagues on the remaining 2%). Any human being with more than a third grade education recognizes this. Personally, I have (literally) laughed out loud at her speeches to congress!
Besides serving as a comedian, she is a tremendous embarrassment to intelligent republicans, and on a much smaller scale, to the U.S. as a whole. Unfortunately, she does occasionally do actual harm to this country - - particularly when her absurd rhetoric is 'believed' (albeit only by a small fraction of the most inept Americans) such as with this Census rebellion. Completing the Census is very important, and accurate information is critical, since many governmental decisions, policies, allocations, etc. are based on it. As one who holds an official public office, Michelle Bachman must be held legally and criminally accountable for her reckless negligence in this instance.

Posted by: bonvivant2 | July 2, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Actually gregniowa, the statement does mention the potential illegality. See the end of the second paragraph, the word after "illogical" ...

"We share Ms. Bachmann’s concerns about ACORN’s involvement in the 2010 Census and will continue pressuring the Bureau to follow their own guidelines for partnering organizations and dump ACORN. However, we can not emphasize enough how important it is for every individual to fill out their census forms.

"Every elected representative in this country should feel a responsibility to encourage full participation in the census. To do otherwise is to advocate for a smaller share of federal funding for our constituents. Boycotting the constitutionally-mandated census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country.

"The unfortunate irony is that Ms. Bachmann’s boycott only increases the likelihood that ACORN-recruited census takers will be dispatched to her constituents’ homes. Anyone who completes and returns their census form will remove any need for a census taker to visit their residence.

"Furthermore, a boycott opens the door for partisans to statistically adjust census results. The partisan manipulation of census data would irreparably transform the census from being the baseline of our entire statistical system into a tool used to wield political power in Washington."

Posted by: mirrorball | July 2, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

The amusing and overlooked part of her rebellion is that her state or district could come up under reported. These results would help re-draw the congressional districts and could in fact eliminate her very own district in MN.

Success beyond her (and ours?) wildest dreams? Delicious irony.

Posted by: wrx_zx6r | July 2, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

You know you've crossed a line somewhere when even Patrick McHenry and Lynn Westmoreland think you're crazy.

Posted by: tpsteele | July 2, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Her remarks about the census are just another in a long line of uneducated, myopic and far-right blather similar to her comments that carbon dioxide is harmless "...because it occurs naturally...".
Perhaps she should spend about 30 seconds in a room with 75% carbon dioxide - maybe it would clear her tiny mind.

Posted by: jasper1231 | July 2, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

An enumeration is just a listing of all the elements in a set, and the set is defined by Law.

Posted by: mdot | July 2, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

gregniowa, Thank you very much for a logical and simple to understan post on the limits of the Federal Government on the issue of census.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government has not abided by the constitution since Woodrow Wilson was president. This includes both parties currently making the majority of elected officials.

Posted by: mburton325 | July 2, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Bachmann and her drones are clearly showing their, "Oppositional Defiant Disorder". Or in cornball folksy terms - "cutting off your nose to spite your face".

Sanford (pre-sex scandal) was showing it when he refused to take the stimulus money - just based on "principle".

By the way, I saw one of these "ACORN" census takers while in Pawley Island, SC. A standard issue older white guy driving a Ford with Veterans plates and adorned in American flags and yellow ribbon magnets. He may as well have been wearing a Shiner's Fez - that's how "white guy" this dude was.

Why on earth would she portray the census takers as liberal, inner-city storm-troopers sent out to round up all the true Americans? Has she forgotten these are hard-working Americans trying to work while doing something good for their community and country?

Oh, that's right. Her pants are on fire.

Posted by: MollieKaye | July 2, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The GOP is smartly preempting Bachmann from speaking now before she inadvertently and prematurely spouts about the Repudiated Republican Party of No Palin/Bachmann 2012 Presidential Ticket.

Posted by: csfoster2000 | July 2, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Why would anyone want to give personal information to an organization that is under criminal indictment in several states. Not only that but why would the government want you to do it. Isn't the primary responsibility of the federal government the security of the people? When you put crooks in charge you should expect people to be wary.

Posted by: gerrypooh | July 2, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

WOW- alot of folks here just don't get the point - ITS NON OF THE THEIR BUSINESS TO KNOW MY BUSINESS - it is unconstitutional to ask for anything more than a head count.

Posted by: richardc2 | July 2, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Congresswoman Bachmann, we have your 360! Continue to march forward with what your gut tells you. I only suggest that you fill all of the various questions with whatever comes to mind so none of those sleazy ACORN folks have to come visit you for leaving an answer blank!

Posted by: BravoOscar | July 2, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

It is not well understood that every question on the Census form has been authorized by Congress. This does not necessarily mean that the questions are "constitutional," but none of them has been successfully challenged and declared unconstitutional. In addition to the population data that are used as a basis for reapportionment, the population numbers and other Census data are used to distribute large amounts of federal funds to states and local communities. This use of Census data is also mandated by Congress. The Census Bureau asks only the questions that Congress has authorized it to ask. As a member of Congress, Ms. Bachmann should know that.

Posted by: bettymurphy495 | July 3, 2009 12:57 AM | Report abuse

IN the tyranny of Government, there comes a point to which a Government's unconstitutional conduct requires for it's citizens to not adhere to the enforcement of unlawful orders, but to stand up and resist. Gandhi made salt that was illegal. Michelle Bachmann defies unconstitutional census form taken by knowingly corrupt organization ACORN. God Bless Michelle.

Posted by: RGeorgeDunn | July 3, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

We have a representative government and majority rule. Members of Congress are elected by the people and are the people's representatives. There are peaceful and legal avenues for changing our representation in Congress, if we are unhappy about it. It is amazing how much ignorance there is about how our government works and the role of the Census Bureau in serving the democracy. ACORN has absolutely NOTHING to do with collecting Census data. The data collectors are employees of the Census Bureau, members of our communities, who are sworn for life to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our data. The Census Bureau reports only aggregated data and makes an enormous effort to protect personal identifiable information. It is in everyone's interest and in the interest of our communities to respond in full to all the questions. It is our obligation as citizens to "help America know what America needs."

Posted by: bettymurphy495 | July 3, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

The Constitution directs an enumeration of the people every 10 years as Congress may direct. Congress directs such things by passing laws. It is under federal law that the fuller understanding of the census is to be found. That federal law directs that the census may ask further questions in carrying out its enumeration, in order to achieve other directives of congress.

It is under these laws that various questions may be asked, and that they must be answered, under penalty.

The information requested by the 2010 census is not discernably different than previous census forms have requested. Previous census "long forms" have asked such things as how many bathrooms one has (or whether or not the household still uses an outhouse), how a house is heated, how many cars the family owns, etc. The only difference is that the "long form" is now called the American Community Survey, and instead of going to about 2.5% of households every 10 years, but now is sent out annually to a small percentage of the population. The purpose is to gather a rolling database of needs, such as determining the need for schools in a community, new sewer lines, help for seniors, etc.

Michele Bachmann's hysteria on this topic may result in her district, and those of other representatives whose people follow her "advice" not getting the attention and funds they legitimately need.

The irony in Minnesota is that population trends may mean losing a seat in the next redistricting in the House. And guess what? There's a good chance that it might be hers!

As far as ACORN, another of her "boogeymen", goes, they are neither collecting data, nor having any access to the data which is collected. ACORN, along with other community and local government groups is letting people know of the availability of jobs relating to the census. As such, they are recruiting groups.

The data collected in the census is protected from release in any form other than complete aggregate form to ANY other agency, from the PResident to the local dog catcher. Census workers are liable to a $250,000 fine. They take this responsibility seriously.

If we are to use the funds generated by our taxes wisely, the census is an essential part of this process.

It would be nice if just ONCE, Rep. Bachmann would operate on the basis of fact, not scare stories. The people in her district deserve better.

Pr Chris

Posted by: CalSailor | July 3, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Two further comments on the Census:

1. The questions authorized to be asked are not just to be nosy. In most cases, they are needed in order to activate various legislation already enacted by Congress. Congress passes a law, say about student loans. As a hypothetical: they may put a funding formula into the student loan authorization law, such as, in districts in which there is a larger than normal number of young people of college age, there might be an additional level of reimbursement for banks doing the lending. Student loans generate lower interest than normal consumer loans; without incentives, banks and credit unions may not be inclined to loan money. Therefore, Congress puts a sweetener in the loan program: if there is a high percentage of college aged students in an area. How does Congress know where such pockets of students live? In questions generated by the census and the American Community Survey. This sort of thing is why we have more than "how many people live in your house" question.

2. Michele Bachmann's hysteria concerning the census may, in fact, put those at risk of physical danger who go house to house in her district to try and get information from those who refuse to fill out the forms, thanks to her statements. Would you want to be the census worker going to neighbors in her district? Should some worker be attacked by an angry resident, do you think she will take "credit"? Of course not. She doesn't work that way. Words have consequences. I pray that no one acts out on her rhetoric.

Pr Chris

Posted by: CalSailor | July 3, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully Michele Bachmann will run for Franken's seat in the Senate. 2010 cannot get here soon enough. Change the Democrats can count on. Hopefully Pelosi, Dodd's Frank and the others can be ushered to the door.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | July 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

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