Diary

UPDATED: Is the Obama census grab unconstitutional? Obama to cook books on census?

Cross posted to The Political Class.

UPDATE: Midwesterner at Samizdata.net doesn’t think so, and the argument is persuasive:

From reading through Title 13, Chapter 1 it appears obvious to me that the POTUS has no role in the census whatsoever beyond, with Senate approval, selecting the Secretary of Commerce and, also with Senate approval, selecting the Director of the Census who ” shall perform such duties as may be imposed upon him by law, regulations, or orders of the Secretary.” Hhmmm… No president mentioned.

The Secretary of Commerce is the only authority the law recognizes. Since as commenter Laird points out, the Constitution did not place the census function in Article II – the Executive branch but in Article I – the Legislative branch, it is not at all within the President’s reach unless the legislature places it there.

When the deal for Republican Senator Judd Gregg to vacate his seat and become the Commerce Secretary became known, Michael Barone noted an often overlooked aspect of the Commerce Department:

Others have written on the Gregg appointment. I want to make one observation: the Commerce Department includes the Bureau of the Census. Ten years ago the Clinton administration attempted to use sampling instead of an actual headcount for the Census enumeration which is used for reapportioning the House of Representatives and for redistricting of all kinds. It was resisted by the Republican Congress, notably by Florida Congressman Dan Miller, who chaired the relevant House subcommittee. And it was finally abandoned after career Census Bureau statisticians, who like most professional statisticians prefer sampling to headcounts, conceded that they could not guarantee that the sampling procedures they proposed to use would be more accurate than a headcount.

I have expected Democrats to attempt to use sampling again, and Republicans no longer have majorities in Congress. But Gregg could exercise an important supervisory role here, by at least insisting on the kind of statistical rigor that Census Bureau career statisticians showed they had when the Clinton administration (in my view) contemplated cooking the numbers.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the Obama administration is fully intent on manipulating the numbers:

The director of the Census Bureau will report directly to the White House and not the secretary of Commerce, according to a senior White House official.

The decision came after black and Hispanic leaders raised questions about Commerce Secretary nominee Judd Gregg’s commitment to funding the census.

“Secretary of Commerce-designate Judd Gregg’s record raises serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 census produces the most accurate possible count of the nation’s population,” the National Association of Latino Elected Officials said in a release on Tuesday, the day Gregg was named to the post. “Policymakers and planners at all levels of government rely on these data to make important decisions about their services, such as the number of teachers that will be needed in their classrooms, the best places to build new roads, or the best way to provide job training.”

The census helps to allocate funding and draw political boundaries. As such, the 2010 census will shape the political battleground for the next decade. Republicans must fight to keep this process from being politicized and corrupted.

Cross posted to The Political Class.