Having failed to move the operation of the 2010 census into the White House, President Obama late last week nominated as director of the U.S. Census Bureau the Michigan sociology professor Robert Groves, a fervent advocate of statistical sampling. That technique, which uses samples instead of actual counting, is easily manipulated and often results in the over-counting of traditional Democratic constituencies, especially minorities.
The data from the Decennial Census taking place in April of 2010 will be used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and to disburse billions in federal dollars. Republicans are very concerned that the White House efforts to politicize the census will result in a corrupted count aimed to benefit Democrats. With Groves’ appointment, their apprehension should grow.
Groves served at the Census Bureau from 1990 to 1992 as an associate director of statistical design, where he strongly advocated adjusting population numbers in urban areas to augment the number of people in these typically Democrat strongholds. The United States Supreme Court ruled this process unconstitutional in 1999.
Earlier this year, hyperpartisan White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel moved oversight of the 2010 Census from the Commerce Department to the White House. In 2006, then Rep. Emanuel revealed to USA Today the motivation behind the shift, “If you think redistricting is always partisan and political which it is… it’s going to be on steroids this time.” As outrageous as that maneuver was at the time, the president has now reinforced politicization of the process with his nomination to run the Census Bureau the man whose name is synonymous with exploitation of the census to reach political outcomes.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) sits on the Senate subcommittee responsible for census oversight. “A sampling process would open the census to the worst kind of political manipulation,” Coburn (R-Okla.) said. “The Constitution clearly requires a count of every person, not a best guess that could be influenced by political rather than empirical considerations.”
On Friday, House Republican leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed concern about the Groves nomination. “Conducting the census is a vital Constitutional obligation,” Boehner said. “Its findings help determine how hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are spent, as well as how the American people are represented in Congress. It should be as solid, reliable, and accurate as possible in every respect. That is why I’m concerned about the White House decision to select Robert Groves as director of the Census Bureau. … We will have to watch closely to ensure the 2010 census is conducted without attempting similar statistical sleight of hand.”
Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) serves as the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee charged with census oversight. “The fight to protect the accuracy and independence of the 2010 Census has just begun,” McHenry said. “With the nomination of Robert Groves, President Obama has made clear that he intends to employ the political manipulation of census data for partisan gain. Mr. Groves is a leading advocate for partisan data manipulation. In fact, his efforts to tamper with census results in 1990 are well-documented and were rightly rejected.
“This represents a reversal of recent White House assurances that it would not exercise political influence over the census. This move will force Commerce Secretary Locke to contradict his sworn testimony during his confirmation hearing. Secretary Locke made clear that the political manipulation of census results, or ‘statistical adjustment,’ would not be used in the 2010 Census. This alone should be enough for the U.S. Senate to prevent the confirmation of Mr. Groves.
“The partisan adjustment of census data produces a false count that does not address the undercount,” McHenry continued. “Furthermore, it is both unconstitutional and prohibited by federal law. The census is far too important to become a tool to wield political power. In order to uphold the law and protect the credibility of our country’s entire statistical system, we will take any and all action necessary to preserve the 219-year tradition of an accurate and independent census.”