Wednesday, May 13, 2009

McHenry: Keep Politics Out of it

By Rep. Patrick McHenry
Washington Times
May 13, 2009


The looming 2010 census has gotten considerable attention in Washington. In most cases, it has not been constructive. White House attempts to run the census in-house had two effects. First, they politicized our nation's largest peacetime mobilization. Second, they implied the Census Bureau is incapable of maintaining its high success rate.

Recent actions by the administration, while of a lower profile, elevate fresh concerns about the integrity and accuracy of the 2010 decennial. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has cautiously said he knows of "no plans" to test a statistical theory that adjusts census data. ...

In media reports of a questionnaire Mr. Groves completed in advance of his hearing, he characterized congressional Republicans as having been the source of efforts to politicize the census. This is patently absurd; with its attempts to circumvent the Commerce Department, the White House clearly crossed that line.

This confusing attempt at creating straw men out of House Republicans is not a harbinger of good things. The census has been apolitical for 219 years - this is not redistricting - and Republicans merely have asked that this tradition be preserved. While redistricting is a partisan tug of war, the data on which it is based should be unassailable.

The enumeration of the census is an Article I function of the Constitution that Congress has assigned to the Commerce Department. However, Congress retains its oversight responsibility. Led by our Oversight subcommittee Chairman William Lacy Clay, Missouri Democrat, we are merely doing our job.

Mr. Groves can move swiftly to vanquish another threat to the integrity of the 2010 census. The infamous political advocacy group ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a member of the Census Partnership Program. Partners help recruit census takers. ACORN is an organization enamored of using government forms to commit fraud. The proposition of putting millions of census forms in its hands seems counterintuitive, to say the least.

On Monday, my Republican colleagues and I sent a letter to the bureau asking it to reconsider ACORN as a partner. According to the bureau's guidelines for participation, partners must not "distract from the Census Bureau's mission." If Mr. Groves thinks ACORN's reputation reflects positively on the bureau's mission, we have requested that he defend that position in writing to Congress.

Despite the litany of red flags from the administration, Congress should resist temptation to prejudge Mr. Groves. He can reassure the country that the 2010 census will be accurate and apolitical by ruling out tampering with census results and by dismissing ACORN. Or he can undermine the confidence of Congress and the American people. I respectfully encourage Mr. Groves to choose the former.

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