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About the Census Bureau: ‘Change’ That Stacks the Political Deck


Almost as soon as Judd Gregg became one of Barack Obama’s prized Republicans, the administration indicated it wanted to have the director of the Census Bureau report to Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff and main political strategist. While Obama may claim he plans to “restore science to its rightful place” in government, his actions appear designed to restore Democratic politics firmly in the government.

Under our Constitution, we must conduct an “actual Enumeration” every ten years “in such Manner as [Congress] shall by Law direct.” Congress placed responsibility for conducting the enumeration in the Bureau of the Census in the Commerce Department.

Politicizing the science of the Census, however, would aid Democratic efforts to consolidate political control of the country. A desire to increase political control is the legitimate objective of any party in power, of course, but Democrats seem much more intent on using questionable and illegitimate means to do so.

The Census will determine how many tax dollars states get in a myriad of federal programs, money that can be used to buy influence, popular support and, yes, votes — particularly in the large urban areas that form the power base of the Democratic Party. That’s one of the major purposes of the mammoth spending (sorry, stimulus) bill pushed by Obama and congressional Democrats.

Just as important is the fact that the Census will determine not just how many congressmen each state gets through apportionment, but what the size and makeup of state legislative districts will be. Keep in mind that it is state legislatures that draw up congressional districts and, therefore, control not only the political makeup of state legislatures, but of Congress as well.

According to Bruce Chapman, a former Census director, if politicians control the Census, you may well get an order to adjust the Census count with “samples” and “modeling” that override the scientific consensus of the statisticians at the Bureau. Another career professional at the Census Bureau told the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund that the only reason for such high-level White House involvement was politics, not science.

Of course, this could happen even if the Census Bureau continues to report to the secretary of Commerce, who ultimately reports to the president. But giving the White House more direct control over the Census certainly smooths the way for any attempts to manipulate the count to ensure that geographic areas that represent the heart and soul of the Democratic party are given the highest population numbers possible, even if that means using dubious methods that result in nonexistent individuals being counted. This is akin to what the Clinton administration did when it tried to use statistical sampling in the 2000 Census to help the Democratic party or when it sped up naturalization of a million new citizens in time to vote in the 1996 election, waiving legal requirements such as fingerprint checks. This allowed 80,000 individuals with criminal records to become citizens because Clinton wanted their votes in the election.

 – Hans A. von Spakovsky is a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and a former Justice Department official.


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