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.
*Note: Last time this happened, the Census Bureau likely purchased the bags from EBay to quiet my grumbling, as the materials were purchased soon after my post and I was told by the Census Bureau PR folks “We don’t see anything on EBay.”Just in case this happens again, here are some lovely screenshots:
The Census Bureau has long touted that it keeps data private and confidential for 70 years after it is gathered. This concept proved to be false as recently as 2004, when the Census Bureau didn’t put up a fight as it turned over information about Arab-Americans to other government agencies.
The Census Bureau also readily hands over data to research centers at universities, both public and private. This is a little-known program that has not been mentioned in the press. While I may personally agree that universities with data access can provide benefits for society, I stand against the Census Bureau handing over this data on the principle that the American people have not agreed that the Census Bureau can use their data in this way.
Take a look at this recent Census Bureau press release that highlights the 10+ sites around the country where universities have access to your data:
The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in
partnership with the University of Minnesota, has opened a new Research
Data Center (RDC) laboratory on the university’s campus in Minneapolis.
RDCs are Census Bureau facilities where researchers from academia,
federal agencies and other institutions with approved projects receive
restricted access to unpublished Census Bureau demographic and economic
microdata files. These secure facilities are staffed by Census Bureau
employees and meet stringent physical and computer security requirements
for access to confidential data.
“The Minnesota Research Data Center will serve researchers from a broad
range of academic disciplines, with particular strengths in demography and
public health,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “The Minnesota
RDC will contribute not only by providing researchers with assistance in
using the demographic, business and health data but also by developing
improved or new data collections.”
“The research lab is housed in the Minnesota Population Center (MPC),
which has a tradition of collaboration with the Census Bureau and other
statistical agencies. As a world leader in the improvement, dissemination
and analysis of census data, MPC is equipped to make unique contributions
to the RDC program,” Groves said.
Before gaining access to the information at RDCs, researchers must
submit proposals to the RDC and the Census Bureau for approval. The review
process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit
and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures,
strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of
these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full
background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the
confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to
significant financial and legal penalties.
The Minnesota Census Research Data Center joins similar centers that
have been established in Boston; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington;
Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Durham, N.C. The
center at Berkeley has a branch at Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif., while the center at Durham has recently opened a branch at Research
Triangle Park, N.C. An additional center is scheduled to open at a site in
Atlanta in spring 2011.
Thanks to the reader who noted this in the comments section of a previous post. I have railed on the Census Bureau for a while now about how easy it is for scammers or other individuals to find 2010 Census paraphernalia because the Census Bureau didn’t use proper identifying information for its employees:
We are glad to see the New York Times and New York Daily News reporting about the Census Bureau’s latest scandal in Brooklyn. At this point, the big question is whether the individuals involved with this data fabrication effort will be formally charged with crimes. Hopefully by Monday we will know the answer…
MyTwoCensus is disturbed to learn that a man so deeply involved in the Blagojevich/Obama-Senate-seat-for-sale scandal is now employed in an upper level management position by the Census Bureau in Chicago. Even if the man, Joseph Aramanda, has not been convicted (yet) of a crime, his reputation for being involved in illegal activities seriously undermines the credibility of Census Bureau operations in Chicago. In a city with corruption linked to 2010 Census advertising, the public should not have to worry that upper management positions are being filled by individuals who are directly tied to government corruption and fraud. Furthermore, Joseph Aramanda’s experiences as a pizza franchise owner (his job prior to the Census Bureau gig) don’t qualify him to be in charge of 1,000+ employees. This is particularly troubling at a time when there are many hardworking, educated individuals with office management experience in the Chicago area who can do the job just as efficiently. MyTwoCensus.com will be pressing the Census Bureau to fire this man immediately, as his association with the Census Bureau tarnishes the reputation of the 2010 Census. That the suits in Washington could let a man so deeply embroiled in scandal run the office of one of America’s largest LCO’s is extremely troubling and indicative of larger problems.
The following coverage comes from The Chicago Tribune:
Pal says Rezko lured him into becoming a middleman in money transfers
Transfers helped obscure cash illegally destined to Blagojevich, Rezko and others, prosecutors say
June 15, 2010
These days Joseph Aramanda manages a U.S. Census Bureau Chicago-area office and its 1,000 employees. But it was in a different capacity that he showed up for the government Tuesday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse — witness in the corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Aramanda took the stand to explain how he was lured by Blagojevich insider Antoin “Tony” Rezko into becoming a middleman in money transfers that prosecutors claim helped obscure cash siphoned from government-related deals and illegally destined for Blagojevich, Rezko and others.
Blagojevich wasn’t directly linked to the complicated chain of financial transactions described by Aramanda, who will return to the stand Wednesday. But prosecutors are clearly using his testimony to explain how Rezko, Blagojevich’s friend and political money man, operated to benefit himself and the ex-governor.
Examiner.com, a citizen journalism site that I wrote a couple of pieces for about the 2010 Census, published the following story from Houston. Is this going on elsewhere too? Thanks to Stephen Dean in Houston for the following:
While stopping in for a quick sandwich, people are seeing what they call suspicious behavior by US Census Bureau ‘enumerators’ throughout the Houston area.
Workers are opening up personal census questionnaires and then filling in box after box, sometimes seeming to fill in every entry on some forms. Other times, the workers are seen opening up the forms and erasing entries and then marking in new entries.
In one northwest Houston fast food restaurant, a security guard who was on his lunch break spotted what looked like a group of census workers feverishly filling in other people’s forms so he confronted them. He also called an investigative reporting team.
The man said it didn’t seem right that these door-to-door census workers would be filling in personal questionnaires without the citizens being present. He said it defeats the entire purpose of having enumerators going door to door to get an accurate count.
When he confronted the workers off the West Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) at Victory, he said one worker answered that census workers had to finish filling in the forms because citizens weren’t doing it.
But the security guard, who asked that his name not be divulged, said it seemed as though as many as a dozen of the Census workers had gathered in that restaurant to fill in forms so that they could shorten their workday by making fewer actual door to door trips.
He said he felt the 2010 Census would be inaccurate if workers are handed a stack of addresses to visit and they instead filled out the forms themselves without ever knocking on the doors.
The man wondered if it was happening elsewhere.
Sure enough, a woman in The Woodlands notified the investigative reporting team on the KPRC Local 2 Facebook page that she saw the exact same thing happening near her home, and what she overheard was troubling to her.
The woman wrote in her Facebook message,
These census workers were talking about a coworker who was making up information about the people they were trying to contact rather than actually doing the job to accurately document the information.”
She wrote that it seemed like these workers, at the Whataburger on Sawdust near I-45 in The Woodlands, had no plans on turning the person in. They just seemed to be lamenting the fact that they were working with a deadbeat.
For that witness as well, it raises flags about the accuracy of the 2010 Census. She wrote,
I use the census from years ago to help me with my genealogy research. Overhearing that conversation did not make me happy to know that the information might not be accurate.”
The investigative team sent hidden camera crews into both restaurants and found the groups of census workers, sitting in the exact places that the tipsters described.
On the westside, hidden cameras were rolling as 8 different workers arrived in separate cars and started spreading out personal census forms on the tables. (more…)
UPDATE: FOR THOSE WHO READ AN EARLIER VERSION OF THIS PIECE, SEE THE UPDATE PRESENTED NEAR THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE.
On Sunday, I discovered an alarming piece of news from Washington state: Census Bureau polo shirts and black canvass bags were on sale at a local Goodwill store. As Steve Jost, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Communications wrote in a blog post yesterday, “Census workers will be easily identifiable: Each will have an official government badge (identifiable by the seal of the Census Bureau) and a black canvas census bags.” This should raise red flags, because by giving out these materials (that were subsequently donated) the Census Bureau is actually enabling fraud to take place. The other way that the Census Bureau has enabled fraud to take place is by failing to give its 600,000 door-to-door workers photo IDs. In a day and age where photos can be printed instantly on an office computer, this is ridiculous. The Census Bureau’s ID cards used by these employees are flimsy and extremely easy to replicate. Yesterday, I questioned the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office about this, and received the following DENIALS from the Census Bureau:
E-mail from Stephen Robert Morse of MyTwoCensus.com: It came to my attention that polo shirts with 2010 Census logos and black 2010 Census canvas bags have appeared in thrift shops and on Ebay – presumably these were leftover partnership materials. As you said, there are two ways to identify Census workers – by their black bag and their name badge. I am concerned that people, particularly the elderly, may be duped by scammers. I have two questions: 1. Why, knowing that black canvas bags are used by enumerators, did the Census Bureau distribute black canvass bags with 2010 Census logos as partnership materials? 2. Why did the Census Bureau choose not to use photo identification for official Census workers? I worry about this because it is extremely easy for criminals to replicate the ID badges.
E-mail back from Michael C. Cook, a Senior Marketing Specialist at the Census Bureau: A search of Ebay by Census staff found only Census 2000 shirts. There are no 2010 enumerator bags or back packs currently on Ebay. The child’s drawstring backpack for 2010 and the enumerator shoulder bag share nothing in common, not size, not logos, not shape, not dimensions, other than the color black. If a member of the public is not certain of the identity of a census employee, they may ask for a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, or a phone number for the local census office to call and confirm the individual’s employment.
Now, this is truly a great way to dodge the questions I asked. Fortunately, I was also able to get Mr. Cook on the telephone and he said that the Census Bureau couldn’t make the photo IDs because “it had to do with the volume and the fact that there is a short amount of time between the time we identify the workers, to the time we hit the street — it wasn’t cost effective to take photos.” So the Census Bureau has no problem spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on ads, but has no budget to authenticate its workers’ identities in picture form to protect people from scammers…
*Note: My one mistake in this investigation was not taking a screen capture of the black canvas 2010 Census bag that was being sold on EBay. For all I know, the Census Bureau Public Information Office could have purchased it in the time before they responded to my query. Nonetheless, most Americans wouldn’t know that Census Bureau employees only use black bags. And despite this, there is still a 2010 Census tote bag on EBay that the Census Bureau PR team scouring the internet failed to notice. This time, I took a screenshot:
I’m not saying that scammers even need Ebay or thrift stores to obtain these materials. In fact, the Census Bureau’s partnership specialists have handed millions of them out for free! Did you get any Census Bureau swag? If so, let us know in the comments section!
Here is a photo of the all-too-easy-to-replicate canvas bags and non-photo IDs used by actual 2010 Census enumerators:
UPDATE: A READER JUST SUBMITTED US A PHOTO OF A BLACK CENSUS BAG THAT WAS FOUND ON EBAY…IT LOOKS AMAZINGLY SIMILAR TO THE 2010 CENSUS BAG. IN FACT, I AM 99.99% CERTAIN THAT THE PERSON WHO LISTED IT ON EBAY PUT IT UP AS A CENSUS 2000 BAG IN ERROR. TO ME, IT APPEARS TO BE A 2010 CENSUS BAG…ANY RESPONSE TO THAT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE?
In recent days, I have received many complaints from Census Bureau employees about the poor quality of their managers. I encourage people with problems to write up their stories and I will publish them here. The following document does not represent the opinions of Stephen Robert Morse or MyTwoCensus.com, but rather the female manager from California who sent me this piece. Inside you will see her opinions about fraud and abuse by Census Bureau management as well as discriminatory treatment of staff and information about the process of filing complaints:
Three female managers in the Santa Maria, CA, Local Census Office, Los Angeles Region filed EEO complaints against our Area Manager, Araceli Barcelo and Assistant Regional Census Center Manager, Jeff Enos. Enos had been our Area Manager and was promoted to ARCM. Barcelo had been a Regional Tech for Enos and was promoted to Area Manager. Those in our office who filed complaints include the Assistant Manager Administration, the Assistant Manager Technology and me, the Local Census Office Manager. We filed complaints because Araceli Barcelo and Jeff Enos rehired a man (I won’t name him as he is also part of our complaint and not a manager) who had abused and sexually harassed women in our office. Both Area Manager Barcelo and ARCM Enos knew about this man’s behavior and never did anything to stop it. The behavior was well documented and ARCM Enos had the documentation. There was a very volatile incident in our office where this man yelled, made an inappropriate comment and a menacing gesture directed at our AMT. This happened while we were on a teleconference with Jeff Enos. This man also “cussed out” Jeff Enos and Enos did nothing. Later Enos called me and told me to handle the situation with this man because “he did not like to do those types of things”. The next day, the man resigned while I was writing him up. Jeff Enos should have disciplined this man. The Local Census Office Manager does not hire, fire or discipline managers. That is the responsibility of the Area Manager.
After the three of us, female managers, learned this man had been rehired during a teleconference with Araceli Barcelo, we filed EEO complaints. We filed complaints because management had not dealt with this man’s illegal and abusive behavior, had rehired him and, then, given him a promotion as a Regional Tech in the area Araceli Barcelo supervises. The women in our office were told this man was to not come to our office. However, as a Regional Tech, he now had access to our work and all our electronic files. He could also show up at our door and gain entrance. We filed because we feared he would harm us. The statement from management that this man would not come to our office shows they knew he had done something wrong in our office.
This man was originally hired as a Group Quarters Supervisor in one of the Central Valley Offices about three hours from Santa Maria. To do this, Barcelo needed to have used a fake address, a new geo coding, as office staff can only be hired from the local area. This man lives in Santa Maria. Staff from our office sees him at the local gym quite regularly. Barcelo had fired the LCOM and the Assistant Manager of Administration from one of the Central Valley offices for allowing the Administrative Assistant to use a fake address, her sister’s address so she could move with the LCOM to one of the new offices. Why hasn’t Barcelo been fired for doing the same thing?
Araceli Barcelo with the direction of Jeff Enos has fired numerous managers in her area. She uses her Regional Techs as spies. Barcelo uses these spies to get information so Barcelo can build documentation on the managers. While some of these managers may have been fired for performance issue, the majority have not. Some of the managers have quit because they couldn’t deal with Barcelo’s harassing behavior, her firing of their staff and taking over the office to put pressure on the LCOM to quit or to find something to use against them. After one LCOM quit, he contacted his Congressional Rep to complain about all the firings and a delegation from the Congressional Office went to L.A. to meet with James Christy, Regional Director. However, the firings continue. Some of these managers had been with the 2010 Census since the offices opened in 2008. The cost of hiring, training, firing, hiring a replacement and retraining is staggering and a huge waste of taxpayer money. But, then again, as many reports have stated, the Census Bureau has wasted enormous amounts of money. Nothing is done about Barcelo and her behavior as they don’t want to disrupt the operations.
If you complain about Barcelo or Enos or anything Barcelo does, you are subjected to retaliation. All of us who have filed against her have received the brunt of her retaliatory behavior. Some of us have been fired. I have been harassed by her every day since I complained about her. She calls us and makes snide, abusive and insulting remarks. She treats us like we, in the field offices are the enemies instead of helping us with the operations. She has made her Regional Techs scour everything in our office to build documentation on us. They looked at all our time sheets to find errors and, I was written up for it. She had one of her Regional Techs, the hatchet man, go through every selection certificate we have handled since the office opened to find mistakes. He is the hatchet man because Barcelo uses him to find things so she can fire. Our Administration Department, by this time, had hired over 2,000 employees and was handling about 300 payroll documents a day. Given the volume and speed of these transactions, since they are all on strict timelines, there will be mistakes. Management claimed all offices were being audited. This was a lie. Barcelo conducted sham superficial audits of her other offices. She used another RT to audit the work he had done when he was the Assistant Manager of Administration. None of the offices in her area or offices reporting to other Area Managers received the depth of review or covered the timeframe audited in our office. Some of the other offices were not audited. This was pure retaliation on the part of Barcelo and Enos. Regional Director, James Christy and Deputy Director know about all of this as we have sent our complaints to them. They turn a “deaf ear” as they don’t want to “disrupt the operations”. Barcelo continues her abusive retaliatory behavior.
We filed our informal EEO complaints and the EEO Counselor contacted us within a week. She tried to resolve the complaints but, of course, management refused to settle claiming they had done nothing wrong. What we sought was to have management deal with this man who they rehired as they should have done originally, to have Barcelo and Enos disciplined for not dealing with this man’s behavior and for rehiring him with full knowledge of his behavior and to have our office moved from the chain of command of Barcelo and Enos as we knew they would retaliate. Retaliate, they did.
We filed our formal complaints with the Decennial Office of Civil Rights, Kathryn H. Anderson, Deputy Director for Decennial Operations Office of Civil Rights, Washington, DC. This was several weeks ago. We received notice from DD Anderson that our complaints had been received but, no decision as to whether our complaints had been accepted for processing or whether an investigator would contact us.
Last week, an LCOM from one of the Central Valley Offices called me. This LCOM and another manager from her office had also filed complaints but, were told by an EEO Counselor that the Decennial Office of Civil Rights is delaying processing the formal complaints so the Census Bureau can finish the operations. None of our complaints have been processed. This LCOM told me complainants are now filing with the Office of the Inspector General so that someone will do something to stop Barcelo’s behavior.
There is a statutory timeline for agencies to process complaints, 180 days. When a federal agency/department/bureau stalls processing formal complaints, they can say they won’t be able to investigate the complaint within the 180 day and pass the complaint on to the EEOC. The Office of Civil Rights, then, never investigates the complaints. This discourages complainants, they give up or they don’t want to deal with another process, EEOC. This creates what is called a “chilling effect” on complainants. The “chilling effect” has been used in the past by employers as a way to avoid having to deal with complaints and avoid correcting their illegal practices. By stalling, the census operations will finish, the responsible management officials will be gone and documents will be destroyed. And we know the Census Bureau is known for shredding and destroying documents and materials. Also, by stalling processing and investigation of complaints, the Office of Civil Rights is giving benefit to management. The OCR is to be an impartial finder of fact. Giving management a benefit and not giving complainants their statutory rights makes the office biased toward management. The only “right” the temporary decennial census employees have is civil rights. Completing the Census does not trump civil rights laws.
By not conducting timely investigations of EEO complaints, the Census Bureau is giving license to managers to continue to engage in discriminatory/harassing and abusive behavior. The managers see no consequences for their behavior and see EEO as a joke. Araceli Barcelo has been quoted as saying: “I have so many EEO complaints filed against me but, I still sleep at night.”
SHORELINE, Wash. — Thousand of U.S. Census workers will be hitting the streets starting May 1, and they’ll have a few identifying characteristics — a Department of Commerce badge and a Census messenger bag.
What they will not be wearing, for the most part, are U.S. Census T-shirts.
But Sue Mills and Laurie Sorenson were still concerned when they saw a bunch on sale for $1.99 at the Goodwill store in Shoreline.
“Laurie saw the shirts hanging on the rack, and we took a look and said, ‘Well, these shirts really should not be here,’” said Mills.
But there they were, red Census 2010 polo shirts, the label on the front, the multi-colored hand logo on back. The two found eight shirts, and ended up buying all of them for fear that “anyone could buy one and do with them what they wanted,” said Sorenson.
Or, more specifically, that anyone wearing those shirts could look official enough to gain your trust, maybe more.
“They could ask your name, your social security number, your phone number,” Mills said.
“Potentially, your personal information getting into the wrong hands,” added Sorenson.
A U.S. Census Bureau spokeswoman said there is no official “uniform” for census takers – rather, they are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing that will help them as they walk long distances. However, some may choose to wear Census paraphernalia.
The best way to identify an official Census worker, they said, is to look for the government-issued I.D. badge, which will have the local Census office phone number, and a messenger bag.
Any residents suspicious of the person at their door are encouraged to call the local office to verify the Census taker’s identity. A Census taker also will never ask to enter a home, nor ask any questions beyond what is on the official survey, said the bureau.
Sue and Laurie said they’re worried not everyone will know that and will take the shirts at face value.
“I don’t know where they came from, where else could they be? They could be in thrift stores all over the country,” said Mills.
KING 5 stopped by the Shoreline Goodwill and found 20 more of the printed Census shirts, as well as some Census 2010 travel bags.
But when notified, employees immediately took the items off the shelves, while a manager said she’ll send an e-mail to all the other Goodwills in the area with a picture of the shirts.
As for where the shirts came from, a Census spokesperson said they were likely promotional items shared with a local partner agency, probably left over from a marketing event, and donated with good intentions.
MIAMI — Armed with a tip from the grassroots group ACORN about its own workers, authorities on Wednesday began arresting 11 people suspected of falsifying hundreds of voter applications during a registration drive last year.
ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has long been accused by Republican and conservative activists — fed by talk-radio hosts — of fraudulently registering voters. But Miami-Dade prosecutors gave credit to the group for coming forward and ACORN officials said they felt vindicated.
“It shows that we take the integrity of our voter registration work with the utmost seriousness,” said ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring. “We turn in people who try to game the system.”
Although ACORN is nonpartisan, its registration efforts focus on low-income and minority populations who tend to vote for Democrats; critics contend those efforts frequently bend or break registration rules. At times during the 2008 presidential campaign, people attending rallies for Republican nominee John McCain broke into chants of “No More ACORN!”
Last year, ACORN’s national drive produced some 1.3 million voter applications.
ACORN first detected problems in Miami-Dade County in June 2008, according to a letter the group wrote to prosecutors. Investigators eventually determined that 11 canvassers, who were paid between $8 and $10 an hour, were turning in fake registration cards, mostly from the Homestead area.
“This is really about money. These are people who decided not to work,” said Ed Griffith, spokesman for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katharine Fernandez Rundle.
The 11 workers each face multiple counts of two felony charges: false swearing in connection with voting and submission of false voter registration information. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The suspects collectively turned in about 1,400 registration cards, of which 888 were later found to be faked. Some contained names of celebrities such as actor Paul Newman, while in other cases the same real voter’s name was used on multiple applications. There was no evidence anyone voted who should not have.
The FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement had made five arrests by midday and were looking for the remaining suspects. ACORN officials said the group regularly reports suspected fraud to authorities nationwide but the Miami prosecution marks one of the few times the complaints were taken seriously.
ACORN itself last year was the subject of fraudulent registration complaints in Missouri, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, among others.