House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Census subcommittee chairman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), and Joint Economic Committee chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) sent a letter to U.S. Census Bureau director John H. Thompson seeking information following reports that economic and jobs report data may have been “fabricated” ahead of the 2012 election.
“Just two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy,” John Crudele wrote for the New York Post on Tuesday evening. Crudele noted an unusually sharp decline in the unemployment rate happened just before President Barack Obama’s re-election last year, reporting, “And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.”
In response to the story, Issa, Farenthold, and Brady wrote to Thompson to announce they are now conducting a “congressional investigation” into the matter. They noted that Crudele’s article contained allegations made by at least two different sources “who claim that employment data collected by U.S. Census Bureau employees was fabricated.”
“According to the story, the fabricated data was ‘collected’ by Census Bureau employees working on the Current Population Survey (CPS),” they wrote. “The U.S. Department of Labor uses the CPS to generate national and regional unemployment rates. The U.S. Congress uses the CPS to make crucial policy decisions, and the private sector uses the CPS to make important business decisions. Crudele’s sources allege that fabrication of employment data has been occurring for years, and that is ongoing.”
Issa, Farenthold and Brady wrote that the allegations are “shocking” and “if true” they believe there may be a “systematic problem at the Philadelphia Regional Census office, where the alleged data fabrication occurred.”
“These allegations also raise the prospect that the use of fabricated data is a widespread problem,” they wrote to Thompson. “The Philadelphia Regional Census office is just one of six offices that collect the data on which the unemployment rate is based.”
“The implications of an unreliable unemployment figure are serious and far-reaching,” they warned. “The national unemployment rate affects everything from legislation on Capitol Hill, to Federal Reserve policy, to stock prices on Wall Street.”
The congressional leaders point to how the Philadelphia census employee who was caught fabricating data, Julius Buckmon, told the New York Post that he was being ordered to do so by supervisors, arguing that the possibility that supervisors “may have urged subordinate employees to fabricate data heightens our concerns about these allegations.”
Issa, Farenthold, and Brady are demanding that the Census officials provide to their respective committees and subcommittees by December 3, 2013 at noon, from the time period of Jan. 1, 2010 through Jan. 1, 2013, a series of documents and internal emails that directly relate to this matter. They also directed Thompson to direct Census employees to “preserve” any relevant emails related to this matter as “it is reasonably foreseeable that Congress will request documents from additional U.S. Census Bureau employees in the Philadelphia Regional Office and in headquarters.”
The Census Bureau released a statement claiming there was “no reason to believe that there was a systematic manipulation of the data described in media reports.” The statement also said that the allegations had been referred to the Office of the Inspector General.