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Rep. Michele Bachmann sparked a new controversy recently when she declared she would provide the bare minimum to Census takers because she was concerned about the Census Bureau's partnership with ACORN, a left-leaning group that has become a popular villain for Republicans.
(You remember ACORN: Formally known as the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, it was lambasted in 2008 by many Republicans because its voter registration efforts included some fraudulent names such as Mickey Mouse. ACORN leaders said they discovered the fake names, notified authorities and fired some workers who cut corners. But Republican leaders still say it was a willful effort to manipulate the election to help the group's liberal agenda.)
Here's how Bachmann explained her concerns in a Washington Times interview (which you can listen to here ):
"Now ACORN has been named one of the national partners, which will be a recipient again of federal money," Bachmann said. "And they will be in charge of going door-to-door and collecting data from the American public. This is very concerning because the motherload of all data information will be from the Census. And, of course, we think of the Census as just counting how many people live in your home. Unfortunately, the Census data has become very intricate, very personal (with) a lot of the questions that are asked.
"And I know for my family the only question that we will be answering is how many people are in our home. We won't be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn't require any information beyond that."
Bachmann packs a lot of bad information into a short space there. So in this item we'll deal with her latest claim about ACORN, and we'll deal with her claim about the constitutional requirement with a different item .
She is wildly wrong with her chraracterization of the Census Bureau's partnership program. Yes, the bureau does partner with organizations to help recruit workers. To date, it has 30,000 such partners.
ACORN is one.
Partners agree "to promote the 2010 Census among their constituents." As a partner, ACORN has agreed to spread the word among its people about the availability of temporary Census jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau expects to hire 1.4 million people through the course of the 2010 census, the bulk of them to do the door-to-door questionnaires, so the bureau casts a wide net to get applicants, including through its partners. Partners don't get paid, but they presumably benefit by getting the word out to members about jobs, and also by providing a public service emphasizing the importance of filling out the Census.
According to Census Bureau information provided to Congress on June 1, 2009, "ACORN and other partner organizations simply promote the availability of temporary Census jobs, but have no role in the terms or conditions of employment beyond promotion of the availability of temporary jobs. Applicants that are hired by the Census Bureau to work on the 2010 Census are required to go through a background check that includes an FBI name check and fingerprint check so that felons are not hired to work on the 2010 Census."
Partners are also encouraged to donate testing space for the millions of people who will apply for the temporary Census jobs. No payments are made for that. And lastly, partners are asked to promote full participation in the Census among their members, through newsletters, e-mails, local meetings etc. Again, there's no payment for that.
So let's count the ways Bachmann is wrong:
ACORN will not be "in charge" of going door-to-door and collecting data from the American public, as Bachmann said. The U.S. Census will be in charge of that. Some of the 1.4 million people who get Census-taking jobs may learn about the job through ACORN. Workers who apply to the Census through ACORN have no better shot at the job than those who apply through any of the 30,000 other partners. That's it.
And despite Bachmann's claim, ACORN gets no money for signing on as a partner.
Once again, she is making a scaremongering claim about ACORN with facts that are ridiculously wrong. So we have to set the meter on fire once again. She earns another Pants on Fire.
Washington Times, "EXCLUSIVE: Minn. lawmaker vows not to complete Census," by Stephen Dinan, June 17, 2009
YouTube.com, "Fox News Channel interview with Rep. Bachmann about ACORN and Census," June 25, 2009
Fox News, "ACORN to Play Role in 2010 Census," by Christina Corbin, March 18, 2009
U.S. Constitution Online, U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 2
Cornell University Law School, U.S. Code Collection, Title 13, Chapter 5, 141, Population and other census information
Cornell University Law School, U.S. Code Collection, Title 13, Chapter 7, 221, Refusal or neglect to answer questions; false answers
Cornell University Law School, U.S. Code Collection, Title 18, Part II, Chapter 227, Subchapter A, 3551, Authorized sentences
Interview with Stacy Gimbel, spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau, June 25, 2009
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