Census politics

CENSUS POLITICS…. Roll Call has an item today reporting on the latest political wrangling over the 2010 census. The piece notes that the “potentially heated debate … comes as the Obama administration moves to shift ultimate control of the census from the Commerce Department to the White House.”

As a result, “Critics — mostly Republican but including some Democrats — have said such a move would inject politics into what should be a nonpartisan assessment of the country’s population.”

Let’s pause to set the record straight here.

During the February 13 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough contradicted White House statements by claiming that “the White House had said we’re going to take [the census] out of the Commerce Department, where it had always been, and we’re going to bring it into the White House, which causes so many problems.” He later added, “But this is the rawest of raw politics, where you’re going to take the census out of the Commerce Department, where as you said, they’re professionals who have done this forever, and bring it inside the White House.” Similarly, as Media Matters for America documented, during the February 14 broadcast of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, senior news analyst Daniel Schorr claimed that in response to the concerns of “the black caucus,” “the White House said, ‘OK, [the census] won’t be under the Department of Commerce. We’ll take it to the White House.’ ”

In fact, the White House has repeatedly denied that it intends to “take” the census “out of the Commerce Department.” In a February 5 statement, White House spokesman Benjamin LaBolt stated only that the White House planned to “return” to the “model” of the “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.” During a February 6 briefing, when asked whether the White House had “moved the control of the Census Bureau into the White House for the purposes of the 2010 census,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stated: “No … I think the historical precedent of this is there’s a director of the census that works for the Secretary of Commerce, the President, and also works closely with the White House, to ensure a timely and accurate count. And that’s what we have in this instance.” Moreover, following Republican outcry concerning the White House’s stated intention to “work closely with” the Census Bureau director, LaBolt reportedly said on February 11 that “[t]his 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.”

Fears surrounding census politics are quickly becoming “the new voter fraud.” The truth is far more mundane.