O'Keefe cohort reruns year-old myth that Obama seized control of Census

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Resurrecting a faux-controversy pushed by Republicans in early 2009, Shaughn Adeleye -- who worked with right-wing filmmaker James O'Keefe to covertly film census training sessions - claimed that President Obama "moved control of the census to directly report to the White House." In fact, the administration made it clear that the Census director would report to the commerce secretary.

Adeleye: "Obama moved control of the census"

From Adeleye's June 2 BigGovernment.com post:

The media will say that all government steals, is inefficient, and wasteful, but during this time of budgetary crisis, when everyone else is asked to tighten their belts, Obama's Census gets to lie, cheat, and steal as much as it can get away with. Obama moved control of the census to directly report to the White House, and yet the quality is dreadful. No one is accountable, no one takes any responsibility, and the media yawns while as much as a billion dollars is wasted.

This is what's wrong with America.

In fact, White House made clear that the Census would remain at the Commerce Department and its director would report to commerce secretary

White House statement: Census director "who works for the commerce secretary and the president" would "work closely with White House senior management." In a February 5, 2009, statement reportedly intended to address minority groups' concerns about Republican Sen. Judd Gregg's nomination to be commerce secretary, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt stated, "There is historic precedent for the director of the Census, who works for the commerce secretary and the president, to work closely with White House senior management, given the number of decisions that will have to be put before the president. We plan to return to that model in this administration."

Republicans seized on statement to falsely claim that Rahm Emanuel "would be in charge of the census." As the New York Times reported on February 19, 2009, "An administration official said Mr. Gregg's office signed off on the statement but other Republicans quickly shorthanded it to mean that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, would be in charge of the census."

Gregg later withdrew his nomination, saying the Census was "not a major issue" in his decision. Democratic Gov. Gary Locke was confirmed for the position in March 2009.

White House: "The census director will report to the Commerce secretary." Roll Call reported on March 11, 2009, that LaBolt stated, "The census director will report to the Commerce secretary" and that "[l]ike in every census under Democratic or Republican administrations there will be interest in Congress and at the White House in this national priority."

Census spokeswoman: White House did not propose "any organizational change." FactCheck.org reported on June 26, 2009, that Census Bureau public affairs specialist Shelly Lowe stated that the White House "has not proposed any organizational change. Given the scope and scale of the operation, in any census there is additional interest on behalf of the White House, as well as status updates, participation in promotional events, etc. The Census Bureau remains under the umbrella of the Department of Commerce."

Obama admin. said it "has not proposed removing the Census from the Department of Commerce." The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reported on February 12, 2009, that LaBolt said, "This administration has not proposed removing the Census from the Department of Commerce and the same Congressional committees that had oversight during the previous administration will retain that authority."

Previous Census directors reportedly said some White House involvement is appropriate. According to the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe, "[I]n an e-mail, Kenneth Prewitt, who served as Census director from 1998 to 2001, said he worked with White House staff during the 2000 national headcount" and that Prewitt said he is "confident" that "well-established principles and practices of statistical independence" would be maintained in the 2010 census. Ed O'Keefe also reported that "[o]ther former Census directors agreed that coordination with the White House on budgeting and outreach was appropriate while data collection and analysis should be kept separate":

Other former Census directors agreed that coordination with the White House on budgeting and outreach was appropriate while data collection and analysis should be kept separate.

As for potential political interference, "It's virtually impossible to do something wrong without someone finding out about it," said Vincent P. Barabba, who ran the 1980 Census. "It's about as transparent an agency that exists."

Barbara Everitt Bryant, who served as director during the 1990 Census, said: "I would have liked a little of the bully pulpit help, because one of the big things is just to get everyone to answer the questionnaire. The president would have a lot more clout on that than anything we could have done at the Census bureau."

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
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BigGovernment.com
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Shaughn Adeleye
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