House Republicans have launched an investigation into "shocking" allegations that sharp declines in unemployment figures released just before the 2012 presidential election may be indicative of widespread and systematic fraud taking place throughout the U.S. Census Bureau.
The probe came about after New York Post columnist John Crudele wrote
about Census employee Julius Buckmon, who told Crudele that his boss directed him to fabricate people and information to meet survey quotas for the Philadelphia region.
Buckmon was just the tip of the iceberg, according to an anonymous Crudele source, who acknowledged that other employees did the same thing.
Buckmon left the agency in August 2011, according to Business Insider
, which quotes a Census spokesman saying, "The agency has no reason to believe this isn't an isolated incident" by an employee "willfully disobeying Census procedures and disobeying the law."
Crudele also raised questions about Census hiring thousands of temporary workers to conduct surveys and then letting them go only to later hire them back. Each "hiring," he writes, showed up as a created job and when the employee was let go, the person did not qualify for unemployment and never showed up as someone who had lost his or her job.
Former Census field manager Ron Brochu told Crudele that during the 2010 census he witnessed "operations that strongly suggest the Census Bureau manipulated nationwide hiring of tens of thousands of temporary workers to manipulate employment data in 2008 and 2009."
"Operations that were to include 200 area workers for six weeks suddenly became ones in which 1,200 workers were to complete the work in 10 days. This was just for northern Minnesota. Multiply that by the entire nation … and it can tip the scales."
Brochu characterized the Census Bureau as "a rat's nest run by political order-takers who often bent rules."
A month before President Barack Obama was re-elected, the official unemployment rate fell from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent, a figure that Crudele has queried.
In an eight-page letter
to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson, GOP Reps. Darrell Issa, Blake Farenthold, and Kevin Brady demand the bureau provide all emails and documents related to the matters. The congressmen, respectively, hold leadership positions on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Census subcommittee, and the Joint Economic Committee.
"The implications of an unreliable unemployment figure are serious and far-reaching," the congressmen wrote. "The national unemployment rate affects everything from legislation on Capitol Hill, to Federal Reserve policy, to stock prices on Wall Street."
They also raise concerns about allegations that the Census Bureau did not publicly disclose the data fabrication or notify the Department of Labor.
Thompson has been given until Dec. 3 to provide unredacted emails and documents for the time period of Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 1, 2013.
Census has released a statement
saying the agency "takes allegations of fraud by its employees very seriously."
"We have no reason to believe that there was a systematic manipulation of the data described in media reports. As a statistical agency, the Census Bureau is very conscientious about our responsibility to produce accurate Current Population Survey data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and all other surveys we conduct."
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