A Congressional committee is planning to grill Census workers over falsified unemployment information that made it appear more people had jobs shortly before the 2012 presidential election, according to the New York Post.
The House Oversight Committee, which has been conducting an investigation into the Census Bureau, has asked the Commerce Department to allow six members of its census staff in Philadelphia to be questioned by the committee's investigators.
A seventh worker, Julius Buckmon, lost his job as a data collector in 2010 after it was revealed that he had falsified reports, and it was not known if he would speak voluntarily to the committee, which is carrying out the probe with the Joint Economic Committee.
The Census Bureau, a unit of the Commerce Department, collects data for several government agencies, with the information later being used to help economists and private companies make important decisions.
According to the Post, Buckmon’s false reports involved the Consumer Expenditure Quarterly Survey, the Consumer Expenditure Diary Survey, and the Current Population Survey. The last is used to calculate the nation’s unemployment rate.
Although the current unemployment rate is 7 percent, the Labor Department will reveal the latest figures on Friday.
Buckmon's false reports were not investigated internally in 2010, and it was not reported to Labor. The case only received national attention in November after Buckmon filed an age and race discrimination complaint against Commerce after he was fired.
Buckmon alleges in his complaint that he was ordered by supervisors to create interviews with nonexistent people. He said he was conducting around 100 interviews a month more than other census workers, with those "interviews" deemed to be fake.
Buckmon said that he did not know whether his former colleagues had also been ordered to make-up interviews, which is called "curbstoning" by census workers because they sit on a curb and fill out blank interviews themselves.
The Post noted that because the Census surveys are scientifically conducted, each interview counts for 5,000 households, and therefore Buckmon’s 100 extra fake interviews monthly would have resulted in falsified information on 500,000 households.
The report says that that it was "well understood" in the Philadelphia office that the unemployment rate "needed to go down right before the last presidential election."
And the jobless rate had a "significant drop" two months before President Barack Obama was elected to a second term.
Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the Oversight Committee, has asked for documents relating to the Buckmon case, "including e-mails, between and among Census Bureau employees referring or relating to the collection of the Current Population Survey.”
But sources tell the Post that the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau have been "surprisingly hostile and non-cooperative" in their response.
Three months ago the newspaper reported that there was a second case of falsification in 2010, when two supervisors in the Brooklyn office were fired. However, in that instance, the Census Bureau contacted Congress to report the problem.
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