My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Archive for the ‘Government Contracts’ Category

Ad Scandal: Agency Forces Community Newspapers To Write Six Or More Articles About The 2010 Census

Friday, March 12th, 2010

H/t to Jim Edwards, the former managing editor of AdWeek, for making us aware of the following (full article HERE):

Ad agencies for the U.S. Census Bureau appear to have learned nothing from a decade-old White House scandal — because they’re busy repeating history.

Back in 2000, the White House was discovered trading ad buys with TV networks in return for positive spin in its war on drugs. That covert operation, which exposed millions to anti-drug propaganda masquerading as drama and sitcoms, ended in disgrace and the White House promised to cancel the program.

Ten years later, that promise is long forgotten. Globalhue, the ad agency that controls much of the government’s ad money targeting minorities for Census 2010, sent a letter to the National Newspaper Association demanding that publishers run six articles about the census or else the government would cancel its ads. (The NNPA represents community newspapers.)

While there was no explicit requirement of positive coverage demanded by Globalhue, the implication is clear: How long do you think the agency would continue placing ads in any newspaper that was digging dirt against the national headcount?

According to congressional hearings in February and March, the letter from Globalhue CEO Don Coleman said:

“In lieu of free ad space, all papers must agree to running six articles (preferably during hiatus weeks) about the Census 2010 as well as two editorials. If paper does not agree to the added value stipulations, buy will be canceled immediately.”

Amazingly, the arrangement proposed in the letter — that ad buys be contingent upon articles written by the papers themselves — is exactly the same as the one conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy during its disgraced ads-for-coverage scheme.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Conclusive Evidence That Burmese Translations For 2010 Census Are Wrong!

Monday, March 8th, 2010

UPDATE: The Census Bureau conducted business in early 2009 with an outside consulting firm to evaluate the accuracy of 2010 Census forms in four languages (Chinese, Russian, Korean, and Vietnamese). Additionally, here is some further evidence of problems from an external report (available in full HERE):

Errors were discovered in the Vietnamese-language materials, including the sample
Vietnamese Census Form.  The Bureau had been inconsistent in their word choice for “census,”
using both “điều tra” and “thống kê” interchangeably.  For the Vietnamese community, “điều
tra” or “government investigation” carries a negative connotation because it is associated with
the communist regime.  While the Bureau recently fixed the online form, it is uncertain whether
the corrections will appear in the printed census forms.

In February, after being tipped off about translation errors on the Census Bureau’s foreign language forms, MyTwoCensus set out to conduct an investigation into Diplomatic Language Services, the firm that was contracted to conduct all translations for the 2010 Census. Our Freedom Of Information Act request has not yet been answered, so we started to contact leading foreign language scholars to translate forms for us and judge the quality of translations.

One minority group that will suffer terribly because of poor translations is America’s Burmese community. Though there isn’t much reliable data on the Burmese-American community, a cursory read of the group’s Wikipedia entry reveals that “According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 16,720 persons of Burmese descent resided in the United States. That number is estimated to have risen to at least 50,000 today because of the large number of Burmese people seeking political asylum.”

Regarding the Burmese translation (available HERE), Julian Wheatley, who serves as the President of the Burma Studies Foundation and works in the Department of Foreign Languages & Literature at MIT told us,  “There are some usage problems, which probably arose because the original translator stuck too close to the English. More obvious, one paragraph has been repeated. Towards the end, well into the second page, you’ll see the phrase (2010 Census) in parentheses. Above it is a small three line paragraph, and the two longer paragraphs above that — you’ll see them — are identical (one in bold, one normal). Presumably that is not as intended.”

This investigation is ongoing. If you or anyone you know has noticed poor language translations on a 2010 Census form, we encourage you to contact us with specific information.

Notes From The Field: A Story Of Waste At The Census Bureau

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

UPDATE: Click on these documents (HERE and HERE) to view examples of just how much waste there is. We are also hoping that Census Bureau employees can send us photos and other documentation of entire warehouses full of materials being destroyed.

The following story was written exclusively for MyTwoCensus.com by an anonymous upper-level local Census Bureau official in California. Maybe Tony Soprano should have won himself a Census Bureau contract, because it seems like waste management is an extremely lucrative business. Enjoy this:

There have been many articles about bad technology and over-hiring of staff at the Census Bureau which has wasted millions of our taxpayer’s dollars. The bright side is that these jobs are providing a stimulus to our economy. However so far no one has spoken about the paper /printing waste at the Census Bureau which is the most visible part especially as a local census office employee.  From my initial estimates this waste could top at least in the millions and maybe a billion dollars.

There are many forms of waste including: single sided printers, employee manuals on high quality paper, thousands of administrative forms and full color recruiting brochures which are printed and never used. Let us also not forget the promotional posters which partnership is scrambling to get rid of because after the questionnaires go out in two weeks they play a little role except encouraging people to mail it back. First, they are the high speed printers which default to print singled sided because we were told they were set that way for map printing. However if we try to default the printers to double sided for our other print jobs we are violating the contractor’s Harris Corporation warranty agreement. Add to that managers and clerks who each feel the need to print their own copy, and make copies of copies (single sided of course) and the occasional office idiot who does not check his printer settings before printing the two thousand page report single sided and we go through entire reams of paper in a day.

Then there are the thousands of manuals and administrative forms on high quality paper we receive in our shipments. It would be a different story if the thousands of manuals were printed on 100% recycled newsprint, like the test prep books in the bookstore but they are not. Maybe I’d feel less guilty if the administrative forms we receive were being used, but they are not used. After each operation our manager receives a headquarters memo (attached) that authorizes them to throw out hundreds of boxes of administrative forms and manuals that were never used. And it doesn’t end there. The national processing center print millions upon millions of forms only to find out there is either an error or an update is needed making the previous editions garbage. We will receive a memo to destroy the old ones. Only to get another pallet of them and sometimes it’s the same version. Add to that the overestimated workloads we still have hundred of boxes of group quarters validation questionnaires and full color recruiting brochures left (and recruiting ends this month)

After address canvassing which was a computer based operation we threw away hundreds of manuals but very little administrative forms. However after group quarters validation, the first paper based operation and the first wave of recruiting ended we threw away hundreds of blank administrative forms and outdated recruiting brochures. Since our local census office was in a building that didn’t recycle we put them in the shredding bin. But the bin filled up very quickly and we were told to just bag them in black garbage bags and dispose of them since they contain no sensitive information. It took us weeks of throwing out manuals, forms everyday before we were able to rid ourselves of it.

One of the supervisors summarized it well when she said: “They treat all the employees like crap…tell everyone they are not willing to pay a cent of overtime and that they have to do their job in under 40 hours otherwise their work will be given to someone else or they will be terminated.” But then they spend your hard earned taxpayer’s dollars to print full color glossy recruiting brochures by the thousands, truck them across the country, have them sit idle in a storeroom only to throw them out a few months later.

My TwoCensus should submit a FOIA request to expose this waste because this is frankly appalling. Among the questions the watchdog group should ask is:

What is the total printing cost and amount of paper for the 2010 census broken down by: administrative forms, partnership posters, employee training manuals, census forms?

How much waste has Shred-It, the national contractor for destroying sensitive information, received from the offices and how much revenue is being generated?

Due to the overestimated workloads and overrecruiting exactly how much extra money went to printing these unused manuals, forms and promotional materials?

How much money is Harris Corporation making by contracting high speed printers and computer equipment which are running up paper, toner and employee costs?

How much money could of been saved if they printed the thousands of manuals on 100% recycled newsprint instead of high quality paper, double-sided all the printers and limited printing jobs to prevent accidental job spooling of thousand page reports?

Next week when we receive our shipment for NRFU (which is like 30 pallettes), they should take back the 10 pallettes of material we still have in our office from last October we are not using to Indiana so they can get a sense of how much waste this is. I want MyTwoCensus.com to try to get Congress and the Inspector General’s office to expose this fruitless waste of money by visiting these offices, conducting an audit or trucking this waste to a centralized location so everyone to see how much waste was produced instead of black bagging it and trying to cover it up. In the age of being green, waste reduction and take back programs not only is the census stuck in primitive paper operation but it is producing administrative forms, manuals, color brochures and posters which are just being thrown away.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Get the $800 million back from Harris Corp.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Taxpayers and government officials alike are either unaware of ignorant of one major debacle: The failure of the Harris Corp. to get their job done in creating and implementing functional mobile technology for the Census Bureau. Though this contract, signed in 2006, was originally valued at $600 million, it swelled to $800 million. (Reward insufficient and terrible work with more money…sounds like a solid government plan!!!)

If taxpayers have ever been swindled, this is the company that did it. (Harris Corp. was supposed to save the government $1 billion by implementing technology successfully, but in reality cost taxpayers $800 million for nothing!!! )  Unfortunately, higher-ups at the Census Bureau, initially during the Bush Administration, and currently during the Obama Administration, have done very little to recoup these losses. Legal action should be taken against this company for not performing the services that it was assigned to do. A large portion of this money should be returned to the United States Treasury — or at the very least, used to pay individuals working on the NRFU operations that will have to use a pen and pencil rather than a handheld computer.

In the year 2010, this is nothing short of pathetic. The government’s decision to choose the Harris Corporation for this contract was ludicrous. It’s decision to keep fueling the fires with $200 million of additional cash is shady at best.

MyTwoCensus intends to A. File an FOIA request to find out as much information about this contract as possible and B. Bring down Harris Corp. so they are forced to give this taxpayer money back.

MyTwoCensus urges Congress to pass legislation that prevents this company from obtaining more government contracts until the money for the 2010 Census contract is returned. Immediate government divestment from a corporation that robbed taxpayers is the only way to send the right message.

Additionally, MyTwoCensus calls on the government to immediately terminate  the Census Bureau’s 5-year contract with the Harris Corporation, as it is currently in its 5th year, and that means that there is still a chance to withhold 20% of the cash, or roughly $160 million.

On a more cheeky note, if Tea Party activists want to think of a site to hold their next protest, the Melbourne, Florida headquarters of this sleezy corporation would be one of the best and most symbolic places to do it!

Census humor is so rare, but a new YouTube video strikes gold…

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The last funny video about the Census was an old Christopher Walken sketch on SNL, but now, for 2010, we have Hitler’s take on the 2010 Census advertising campaign (not offensive and safe to watch at work, don’t worry):

Census News Round-Up: Call Center Hiring, Census Forms Being Distributed, Groves Testifies In Washington About 2010 Census Jobs, New York Undercount?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

1. From the Atanta Journal-Constitution: Ryla is hiring 1,400 people in Georgia to work at call centers from April-August, presumably for the Census Bureau’s non-response follow-up operations.

2. From the Terry Haute, Indiana Tribune Star: 2010 Census materials are already being distributed in hard-to-count areas of Indiana.

3. From Ed O’Keefe at The Washington Post:

A majority of the roughly 1.2 million temporary jobs created by the U.S. Census Bureau this year will be created in the late spring, agency Director Robert Groves said Tuesday.

Groves told a Senate subcommittee that 600,000 to 700,000 census takers will be hired from May through early July to visit individual households that fail to return census forms. Some workers currently employed in temporary positions are expected to reapply for new positions and get hired, he said.

“We over-recruited, clearly underestimating the labor market,” Groves said, acknowledging that the nation’s employment situation provided the Census Bureau with a wealth of eager applicants who, according to an agency statement, showed up for training at a much higher rate than they did during the 2000 Census.

4. The venerable New York Times reports that, “The city and the Census Bureau hope to avoid a repeat of the 1990 census, when the city challenged the count and the bureau acknowledged that it missed more than 240,000 New Yorkers.”

Highlights of the Inspector General’s Latest Report…

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Here are what we think are some of the most important findings of the Inspector General’s recent report:

- The 2010 Census is currently estimated to cost approximately $14.7 billion, reflecting an increase of $3.2 billion over the last 2 years. For this fiscal year, spending on the 2010 Census will total $7.4 billion.

- The ELCOs’ (Early Local Census Offices) production wage costs were 45–186 percent of their budgets and for production mileage they were less than one percent to 250 percent of their budgets. For the quality control phase of the operation, ELCOs’ wage costs were 68–439 percent of their budgets and for mileage were less than one percent to 878 percent of their budgets.

- During the period between January and July 2009, which encompassed the Address Canvassing operation, some employees claimed nearly 3.9 million miles driven at the higher rate, resulting in excess payments of approximately $136,000.

- 604 employees spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work, and of those, 23 employees spent 100 percent or more
of their time driving.

- 15,263 employees received training but worked for less than a single day or did not work at all. Of these employees, 10,235 did not work at all but earned approximately $3.4 million for attending training. An additional 5,028 employees completed training, at a cost of $2.2 million in wages, but worked for less than a single day.

Digest all of that for a while and there will be more to come…

BREAKING NEWS FROM THE AP: Audit finds 2010 Census preparations wasted millions

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
H/t to Hope Yen and the Associated Press for the following piece. Of course we are already trying to obtain this complete document to find out the details of exactly what happened…but at the same time, none of this should come as a shock since we’ve been reporting on many examples of blatant waste at the Census Bureau for the past year…
UPDATE: This report from the Commerce Department Inspector General’s Office is now available to the public HERE.

By HOPE YEN (AP) –

WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau wasted millions of dollars in preparation for its 2010 population count, including thousands of temporary employees who picked up $300 checks without performing work and others who overbilled for travel costs.

Federal investigators caution the excessive charges could multiply once the $15 billion headcount begins in earnest next month unless the agency imposes tighter spending controls, according to excerpts of a forthcoming audit obtained by The Associated Press.

On a positive note, investigators backed the Census Bureau’s decision to spend $133 million on its advertising campaign, saying it was appropriate to boost public awareness. The spending included a $2.5 million Super Bowl spot that some Republicans had criticized as wasteful.

The findings by Todd Zinser, the Commerce Department’s inspector general, highlight the difficult balancing act for the Census Bureau as it takes on the Herculean task of manually counting the nation’s 300 million residents amid a backdrop of record levels of government debt.

Because the population count, done every 10 years, is used to distribute U.S. House seats and billions in federal aid, many states are pushing for all-out government efforts in outreach since there is little margin for error — particularly for Democratic-leaning minorities and the poor, who tend to be undercounted. At the same time, the national headcount will employ 1 million temporary workers and is the most expensive ever, making it a visible sign of rising government spending.

The federal hiring has been widely touted by the government as providing a lift to the nation’s sagging employment rate — but investigators found it also had waste.

The audit, scheduled to be released next week, examined the Census Bureau’s address-canvassing operation last fall, in which 140,000 temporary workers walked block by block to update the government’s mailing lists and maps.

While the project finished ahead of schedule, Census director Robert Groves in October acknowledged the costs had ballooned $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent. He cited faulty assumptions in the bureau’s cost estimates.

Among the waste found by investigators:

_More than 10,000 census employees were paid over $300 apiece to attend training for the massive address-canvassing effort, but they quit or were otherwise let go before they could perform any work. Cost: $3 million.

_Another 5,000 employees collected $300 for the same training, and then worked a single day or less. Cost $1.5 million.

_Twenty-three temporary census employees were paid for car mileage costs at 55 cents a mile, even though the number of miles they reported driving per hour exceeded the total number of hours they actually worked.

_Another 581 employees who spent the majority of their time driving instead of conducting field work also received full mileage reimbursements, which investigators called questionable.

Census regional offices that had mileage costs exceeding their planned budgets included Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Kansas City and Seattle.

Most of the nation will receive census forms in mid-March, and the Census Bureau is asking residents to return them by April. For those who fail to respond, the government will dispatch some 700,000 temporary workers to visit homes in May.

In response to cost overruns, Groves has said he would work to prevent expenses from ballooning further and reevaluate budget estimates for the entire census operation. He has made clear his goal of returning tens of millions of dollars to government coffers by motivating more U.S. residents to mail in their form, which avoids costly follow-up visits by census takers.

As to the Super Bowl ads, Republicans including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the $2.5 million purchase, which included two 30-second pregame spots, on-air mentions and a 30-second ad during the third-quarter.

The ads, featuring Ed Begley Jr. humorously extolling a new project called a “Snapshot of America,” was widely panned as weak and ineffective by media critics.

“There is a general move in the United States toward more government involvement in the economy. Seeing the U.S. Census spot gives us little confidence that this is going to solve our issues,” blogged Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, both marketing professors at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

The inspector general’s report said the census advertising was consistent with the government’s goals of boosting participation in the count. The agency has said that if 1 percent of Super Bowl viewers change their minds and mail in their form, it will save taxpayers $25 million to $30 million in follow-up costs.

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Have the Census Bureau’s language translation services been shoddy?

Monday, February 15th, 2010

After receiving some credible tips from readers, on Sunday, February 14, 2010, MyTwoCensus.com filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about language translation services and the 2010 Census. We’ve heard too many rumors that some of the language translations have been completely sub-par. Was this yet another incident of a contractor screwing up a census contract or was this run of the mill taxpayer theft?

Here’s a copy of our request:

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting a copy of the contract paid by the U.S. Census Bureau to Diplomatic Language Services in regard to the 2010 Census. If there are other documents that are-related to the termination of this contract or any controversies surrounding this contract, I would like to receive those documents as well. I am also requesting any memos from staff members of the Census Bureau regarding this contract and/or the quality of services rendered by Diplomatic Language Services in regards to translation activities.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com, governingpeople.com, and other publications.  Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. If you have any questions about handling this request, you may telephone me at any time.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

MyTwoCensus Investigation: Is your census data really “confidential” if it’s being shared with private and public universities?

Monday, February 15th, 2010

The following report comes from the Associated Press…Let’s just hope that the researchers at university data centers take good care of your personal data, because any breach could have dire consequences. We will continue to explore this subject in the coming days to determine precisely which (if any) data from the decennial census will be distributed to universities. MyTwoCensus.com supports higher education and demographic research, but if neither the President nor the FBI can’t (in theory, but not in practice…) access census data, then neither should private citizens at universities.

Palo Alto, Calif. (AP) — Stanford University is preparing to launch a high-security data center, where researchers will analyze some of the most confidential Census information. The Stanford facility, which opens this month, will serve as a satellite center to the one at University of California, Berkeley. There are only a handful of other such data centers in the country — at top research schools, including Duke, Cornell and UCLA. C. Matthew Snipp, a Stanford demographer who will head the new center, says the data being handled there is much more detailed than what’s released publicly. The information feeds studies by economists, sociologists and public health researchers, among others. Snipp says the center will be under strict security measures to protect people’s privacy.

UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle has posted a more comprehensive version of this story HERE.

Metro West Daily News: Comic book pitches census to Brazilians

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010
Census comic staring Brazilian characters Ze Brazil and Tiao Mineiro
By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff
Posted Feb 10, 2010 @ 12:45 AM

Census officials hope a little humor will lead to an accurate headcount.

“2010 Census: The Adventures of Ze Brasil & Tiao Mineiro,” a comic book in Portuguese, is part of a Boston Regional Census Center initiative to let Brazilian immigrants know about the importance of the national census conducted every 10 years.

Local Portuguese-language newspapers and magazines will distribute comic books in Framingham and Marlborough next week, then again next month. Churches with predominantly Brazilian congregations will also distribute the 16-page publication.

“We are trying to reach everyone,” said Alexandra Barker, U.S. Census media specialist.

Ze Brasil and Tiao Mineiro are familiar figures to readers of Bay State Brazilian newspapers. Boston-based cartoonist Daniel Nocera launched the series featuring the two illegal immigrants living in Massachusetts in 2005.

The comic strip, which is carried in The Metropolitan Brazilian News and A Noticia weekly papers in New England, as well as The Brazilian News in London and The Brasil News in Toronto, puts a humorous spin on struggles the pair face due to their inability to speak English and lack of documentation.

Using situations such as not knowing when to get off a T train or dealing with an unscrupulous landlord, Nocera said he tries to depict reality but also make readers laugh and think.

“I believe many Brazilians will identify themselves with my characters,” he said.

The census-themed booklet is an extension of the comic strips that “use a mild sense of humor and creativity as tools for getting the messages out.

“There are three short stories and three games, all involving the main census messages: It’s easy, it’s important and it’s confidential,” said Nocera, who was named best Brazilian cartoonist living outside Brazil in 2008 and 2009. In the booklet, Ze Brasil and Tiao Mineiro are visited by a census worker, and talk about things that can be improved, such as schools and hospitals, based on an accurate census count.

“This comic book is an important tool for our outreach efforts to this hard-to-count population, which is the largest foreign-born community in the Boston region,” said Barker.

“We want to be culturally sensitive, not too bureaucratic,” she said.

The Final Word on the Super Bowl ad debacle…

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I need not write any more words about the Super Bowl ad. It now has 333,000+ views on YouTube, but at the same time it has been panned time and time again, and perhaps caused 10% of the population to resent the Census Bureau, even if it caused 2% of the population to fill out their 2010 Census forms.

As you will see below, the genius ad agency DraftFCB (who also produced failed and unmemorable Taco Bell and Dockers commercials during the Super Bowl) didn’t even permit the embed codes for the “viral videos” to be shared until this error was pointed out by internet users. One word for these folks: Idiots.

The following words are from The Federal Eye blog by Ed O’Keefe:

Updated 3:53 p.m. ET
Media critics seem to agree: The U.S. Census Bureau should keep to counting people and stay out of the advertising business.

The agency spent $2.5 million on a 30-second ad that aired during the third quarter of Sunday night’s Super Bowl, a price tag also earned them two spots during the pregame show and two on-air mentions by CBS Sports anchor James Brown.

The ad was directed by Christopher Guest and starred Ed Begley Jr. and alums of Guest’s cult classics, “Best in Show,” “For Your Consideration” and “A Mighty Wind.”

The ad is one of a five-part series that the agency hopes will spread virally out from a Facebook fan page and YouTube. (The agency prohibits bloggers and third party sites from copying and pasting embed code of the ads, blaming contractual restrictions — a decision that likely means the agency’s viral efforts will fail. UPDATE: The agency’s YouTube channel now provides the embed code. Was somebody listening?!)

Entertainment Weekly named the spot one of Sunday night’s five worst, stating, “How weird to hire all those funny character actors, then accidentally air an unfinished version of a commercial that left us all wondering what the frak we just watched!”

The ad also ranked poorly in USA Today’s annual Super Bowl ad viewer survey, ranking towards the bottom between a CareerBuilder.com ad and one for the new Wolfman movie. (But it did beat the controversial ad starring Tim Tebow.)

Advertisers are often willing to fork over millions of dollars for a Super Bowl spot in hopes of free day-after buzz. So perhaps most insulting of all, some ad critics completely ignored the Census spot. Slate’s Seth Stevenson didn’t mention it in his review of an “uninspiring slate” of commercial offerings, and The Post’s television critic Tom Shales also ignored the ad (Shales concluded that the David Letterman-Oprah Winfrey-Jay Leno “Late Show” promo was the night’s best — and The Eye agrees).

The conservative editorial board at the New Hampshire Union-Leader seized on the Census ad’s price tag, calling it a “Super blunder” and lamenting that the spot cost only 1.9 percent of the Census Bureau’s total advertising budget.

The editors echoed concerns raised last week by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Both lawmakers have sought justifications for the big purchase.

“There has been a great deal of buzz about the Census ads this week which is raising awareness at just the right time,” said Census Bureau spokesman Steven Jost.

“No single ad carries the whole burden of this massive outreach and education effort,” he said. “Our goal now is to raise awareness that the Census is coming in March. Then we will shift to more direct messaging that your Census form will be arriving by mail and inspiring folks to ‘mail it back.’”

Officials have also justified the costs by noting that any publicity about the 2010 Census — good or bad — should help save taxpayer money in the long run. A higher census response rate cuts the need for temporary workers to conduct expensive follow up interviews, the agency said.

“If 1% of folks watching #SB44 [Super Bowl 44] change mind and mail back #2010Census form, taxpayers save $25 million in follow up costs,” the bureau Tweeted on Sunday night.

Wired Magazine and Techies: Census Bureau’s Super Bowl Ad Is A Dud

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Click here for some scientific evidence about the Census Bureau’s failure to choose a worthwhile ad for the Super Bowl…here’s the quote in question:

“After the game, I asked to see more data. They found one interesting case where the US government’s 2010 census advertisement had low effect on the viewers and the Google commercial that followed it sparked the audience’s interest.”

Michelle Malkin Hearts Us..And Makes Some Valid Points

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Though we’re a staunchly non-partisan media outlet, yesterday we became a darling of the right, as Michelle Malkin sung our praises. Perhaps the best point in her article is that Christopher Guest’s “viral” video has fewer than 7,000 hits on YouTube, but maybe that will soon change with all of this (ahem, negative) exposure:

The Super-Sized Census Boondoggle

By Michelle Malkin  •  February 5, 2010 10:19 AM

My column looks at the bloated Census p.r. and education budget. GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson is asking questions. As well he should. History shows that the more the Census spends on advertising, the lower the response rate is. Best watchdog site for all the latest Census shenanigans: My Two Census.

***

The Super-Sized Census Boondoggle
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2010

If only the federal government were as responsible with our money as Pepsi is with theirs. The soda giant has been in the Super Bowl ad business for more than two decades. But this year, Pepsi determined it was economically unwise to pay $3 million for a 30-second spot. So, who’s foolish enough to pay for Super Bowl gold-plated airtime? You and me and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Census Bureau will squander $2.5 million on a half-minute Super Bowl ad starring D-list celebrity Ed Begley, Jr., plus two pre-game blurbs and 12-second “vignettes” featuring Super Bowl anchor James Brown. It’s a drop in the Census boondoggle bucket (otherwise known as the tax-subsidized National Democrat Future Voter Outreach Drive). The Obama White House has allocated a total of $340 million on an “unprecedented” promotional blitz for the 2010 Census. That’s on top of $1 billion in stimulus money siphoned off for increased Census “public outreach” and staffing. In all, the Census will triple its total budget from 2000 to $15 billion.

Ads pimping the Census have already appeared during the Golden Globe awards and will broadcast during the Daytona 500 and NCAA Final Four championships. Some $80 million will be poured into multi-lingual ads in 28 languages from Arabic to Yiddish. Racial and ethnic groups have been squabbling over their share of the pie.

The U.S. census is a decennial census mandated by our constitution. Should Americans know about it? Sure. Should the p.r. budget become a bottomless slush fund in recessionary times? Surely not.

Yet, no matter how you translate it, the Census commercials to date have been an Ishtar-style flop. Global ad agency Draftfcb, based in (Obama’s hometown) Chicago and New York, nabbed a $200 million, four-year contract to oversee the Census Bureau’s direct marketing, online, and offline general market media strategies. The agency hired comedian Christopher Guest to produce “viral” spots. One of the supposedly “humor-driven” videos produced by Guest and commissioned by Draftfcb was uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago. It has racked up a measly 6,880 views.

“For a once-a-decade project involving every living American, that’s a pretty crummy return on investment,” jeered AdFreak.com’s David Griner. “The video seems to be hampered by the same problem that plagues all campaigns meant to ‘go viral.—i.e., it’s simply not that funny…[T]he joke is a chuckler at best, and dragged out to three minutes, that chuckle gets spread pretty thin.” According to independent Census watchdog Stephen Morse, the feds conducted a total of 115 focus groups in 37 markets across the country before settling on the dud of an ad.

That’s a hell of a lot of focus-grouping to get people to pay a little extra attention to government head-count questionnaires that will be coming straight to their mailboxes, anyway.

Taxpayers are also footing the bill for the Mother of all Government Junkets – a three-month, $15 million road trip by lucky-ducky Census Bureau flacks traveling in 13 buses and cargo vans with trailers. They’ll be partying in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and at parades across the country. In case you were wondering about the anticipated Census Road Show carbon footprint, it’s an estimated 223 metric tons.

But not to worry: The eco-racketeers of an Al Gore-endorsed carbon offset firm called “Carbonfund.org” have become official government “partners” with the Census to offset all the vehicle emissions – and surf off the free publicity to garner more shady business.

As if overpriced TV ads, online videos no one watches, and indulgent, cross-country caravans weren’t enough, the Census Bureau is also enlisting 56 million schoolchildren to pester their parents and act as junior government enumerators. Educrats are spending several billions more on math and social studies lessons peddling the Census. Overzealous Census partners such as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials have distributed recruitment propaganda urging constituents to participate because “Joseph and Mary participated in the Census.” Goodness knows what kind of fear-mongering curricula the kids are being served in the name of counting heads – and shaping the electoral landscape.

“When times are tough, you tighten your belts,” President Obana lectured us. “You don’t blow a bunch of cash on Vegas.” Coincidentally, the Census Road Tour junketeers just wrapped up a visit in Vegas. Next stop? You guessed it: The Super Bowl in Miami. Taxpayers should start crying foul.

USA Today: Glitches Hamper 2010 Count

Friday, February 5th, 2010

We’re really wondering who at the Census Bureau is responsible for the below problems…because he or she should be fired immediately…MyTwoCensus.com will soon be investigating who was responsible for this language foible….see the following report from USA Today:

By Haya El Nasser

The words dieu tra jumped out at Quyen Vuong as she perused the 2010 Vietnamese-language Census form online.

“It’s a very scary connotation in the sense that there is a crime and the government needs to investigate,” says Vuong, a member of two Census outreach committees in California‘s Santa Clara County and executive director of the International Children Assistance Network.

The words the Census Bureau used to refer to its upcoming population count evoke chilling memories for Vietnamese immigrants who escaped a Communist regime. Vuong alerted the Census Bureau, and Director Robert Groves told her that online Census materials were being changed and would use the more neutral thong ke (tally) to refer to the count. It’s too late, however, to edit preprinted forms.

Vuong says the government should launch a media campaign to acknowledge the mistake and apologize.

Despite an unprecedented $340 million promotion that includes $130 million for ads in 28 languages (including Tagalog, Yiddish, Khmer, and Urdu), user guides in 59 languages and the Census questionnaire itself in six — English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese — glitches and gripes surround the Census effort:

• The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund last week reported widespread problems in Asian communities, from mistranslations to insufficient staffing in local Census offices.

“We don’t want to be too critical, but no one had a chance to preview the language guides, the advertising campaign,” says Glenn Magpantay, director of the Democracy Program at AALDEF. Concerns over privacy and confidentiality continue, he says.

• The National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents about 200 black community newspapers, is angry that the Census Bureau is spending only $2.5 million on ads in black media.

“We think they’re about $10 million short,” says Danny Bakewell, chairman of the group. “They’re setting it up for us to have the greatest undercount in the history of America. If this happens, it will devastate our community for the next 10 years at least.”

The number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives is based on Census counts every 10 years. The tally also helps to redraw political districts and determine the allocation of more than $400 billion a year in federal money to states and cities.

• Korean-American groups want to see more Census spending in their community. “We heard that there was so much money out there for Census outreach, but I don’t see a dollar,” says Young Sun Song, a community organizer for the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center in Chicago.

• In Texas, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund complains that the state has not formed a complete-count committee to encourage response to the 2010 Census forms that will land in mailboxes next month.

Question to our readers…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Do you think it is a good use of money for the Census Bureau to spend a few million $$ on a Super Bowl advertisement? (please comment below!)

Census advertising campaign begins Sunday (VIDEO)

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

We have a few of the advertising spots from the ad campaign for the 2010 Census.

The Census Bureau‘s first advertising spot will air during the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night.

Here are some of the ads, courtesy of the Washington Post, Advertising Age and Ad Week.

Mail It Back:

The Announcement:

Next 10 Years:

Let us know what you think in the comments, and we’ll have more ads and analysis over the next few weeks.

Nevada awards $866,000 public relations contract

Monday, January 11th, 2010

The public relations firm Weber Shandwick has been awarded an $866,000 contract for a 2010 Census outreach program in Nevada, according to a press release from the company.

The Nevada Secretary of State’s office awarded the contract.

A few more details from Weber Shandwick:

The Minneapolis office of Weber Shandwick, which directs the firm’s work on the national Census effort, has assigned a separate team to lead the Nevada campaign. The Nevada program includes advertising support from Sawyer Miller Advertising and Hispanic and African American outreach by Weber Shandwick’s multi-cultural firm, the Axis Agency. Weber Shandwick has subcontracted with The Ferraro Group of Reno and Las Vegas to assist in executing the plan. Weber Shandwick’s contract runs through the end of April.

Live-blogging a conference call with Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves…

Monday, December 14th, 2009

10:00 – pretty sure the census bureau dropped the ball on this one because i called back in and the line is dead…either the call is over or more likely the census bureau/call center made some sort of error…

9:55 – KNOCKED OFF THE CALL…did it go dead? my line is still working fine…come on!

9:52 – Question: Why don’t you mention single, unattached people under age 30 as a hard-to-count group?

9:31 – 134 million addresses in the USA. As of now, they are 2% points high, compared to 5% high in the 2000 address…there were more duplicates then.

9:29 – go in pairs, with escorts, in high crime areas (for census enumerators)…

9:28 – safety in america: FBI NAME-CHECK…ALL APPLICANTS UNDERGOING FINGERPRINTING…on criminal history check, any convinces for major crimes such as grand theft, child molestation…etc…”if there are convictions of less serious crimes then the applicant can be hired if they don’t pose a risk to the american public”  – With so many people OUT OF WORK who don’t have felonies, why would you hire felons????

9:26 – Over 3.8 million people are being recruited for 1.2 million through 1.4 million people. 700,000 people working for the largest operation, Non-Response Follow Up from May through July 2010.

9:21 – Complete Count Committees forming…who ensures that there is bi-partisan representation on these 9,100 committees (37 in states). But are they bipartisan and independent?

9:20 – 135,000 partner organizations with the 2010 census…here’s one who’s not a partner anymore: ACORN

9:18 – 3 large processing centers open

9:17 – Grovesy talks about the ad campaign that’s getting started. Starting enumeration in Alaska in January. In March, most of the US population receives their forms. April 1 is Census Day (and April Fools Day…ah)…people should return their forms by this day. Otherwise the door-knockers will come knock knock knocking…some talk of reapportionment. In April 2011 the state-redistricting data for local/regional races is distributed.

9:16 – Grovesy’s giving us a quick history lesson about the Census….founding fathers yadda yadda…yawn

9:15 – Dr. Groves is in da house so to speak for the second operational press briefing (shouldn’t we have more of these?)

9:15 – 2010 Census PR Man Stephen Buckner is on the line…

9:13 – We are still standing by…this hold music is now reminiscent of terrible elevator rides.

9:07 – Kind of enjoying the jazz rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer…on second thought, take as much time as you need to start this call.

9:05 – Come on Grovesy…I’m hungry for answers. (Still waiting for call to begin…)

8:59  – Call should begin shortly…

** CENSUS BUREAU MEDIA ADVISORY **

Census Bureau Director to Provide Update on
Status of 2010 Census Operations

What:         U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves will brief the media on the status of 2010 Census operations. Groves will provide an assessment of the Master Address File, which serves as the source of addresses for mailing and delivering more than 130 million 2010 Census forms next March. He will also provide  updates on outreach activities and other logistical operations under way.  The briefing will include a question-and-answer session.

When:        Monday, Dec. 14, 9 – 10 a.m. (EST)

Where:        National Press Club, 13th floor
Fourth Estate Restaurant
529 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20045

Members of the media may also participate by telephone. (Please dial-in early to allow time for the operator to place you in the call.)

A Cohort Of Census Bureau Officials Stay At The Ritz Carlton…On Your Dime!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

From BergersBeat.com:

At least one local purchaser of distressed commercial real estate tells the columnist that a St. Louis Chrysler plant will be hitting the market any edition. Broker? DESCO says the tipster. . .Which three additional local banks are this close to takeovers?. . .Taking a census at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Clayton, an insider noted that a party of 15 from the U.S. Census Bureau stayed there – not even in the City of St. Louis, where Missouri’s Census of Schools was launched by the bureau’s director Dr. Robert Groves.

Are we going to have to file a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out whether this is true? Hopefully not, as we just inquired about this with the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. To be fair, the Census Bureau could have negotiated a pretty hefty corporate discount at The Ritz, particularly because it’s doubtful that the place is swirling with customers in this economy. But as one GOP insider said to us, “No wonder their budget’s out of control!”

UPDATE: Dr. Groves did NOT stay at the Ritz. And the other government officials stayed there for $110 per night (government rate). Case closed. (See below for the official Census Bureau response!)

Stephen,

Dr. Groves did not spend the night. He flew into St. Louis for the day to
participate in a Census-in-Schools event with Subcommittee Chairman Lacy
Clay and officials from the City of St. Louis. Three Census Bureau staff
members from Headquarters and nine from the Kansas City Region were in town
to support this event, which required a lot of preparation and received
national and local press coverage. Staff also were involved in operational
and partnership activities involving the Director and Chairman Clay. This
is an area that had a low mail response rate in 2000, so extra efforts by
regional staff are critical to improve the response rate and decrease the
undercount. Census Bureau staff stayed at the Ritz-Carlton because it is
centrally located and offers the government rate of $110 per night.

Burton H. Reist
Assistant to the Associate Director
Communications Directorate