Judicial Watch Obtains Obama Commerce Department Documents Detailing ACORN Partnership for 2010 Census
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the U.S. Census Bureau detailing the substantial involvement of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in the 2010 Census. Included among the 126 pages of documents, obtained by Judicial Watch under threat of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, is ACORN’s original Census partnership application. The document describes 18 different areas of responsibility requested by the community organization, which is under investigation in multiple states for illegal activity during the 2008 election, including voter registration fraud.
The documents also list the types of organizations ineligible for partnering with the U.S. Census. They include: "…Hate groups, Law enforcement, anti-immigrant groups, any groups that might make people fearful of participating in the Census…" The release of these Obama Commerce Department documents comes in the wake of an Obama Department of Homeland Security report released in April linking opposition to illegal immigration to "rightwing extremist radicalization."
In its official statement responding to the ACORN controversy, the Obama Commerce Department downplayed ACORN’s participation in the Census, and labeled "baseless" the notion that ACORN would be involved in any Census count. However, the Census Bureau offered ACORN the opportunity to "recruit Census workers" who would participate in the count. Moreover, as an "executive level" partner, ACORN has the ability to "organize and/or serve as a member on a Complete Count Committee," which, according to Census documents, helps "develop and implement locally based outreach and recruitment campaigns."
According to its application ACORN also signed up to: "Encourage employees and constituents to complete and mail their questionnaire; identify job candidates and/or distribute and display recruiting materials; appoint a liaison to work with the Census Bureau; provide space for Be Counted sites and/or Questionnaire Assistance Centers; sponsor community events to promote participation in the 2010 Census," among 18 requested areas of responsibility. The documents also show the decision to add ACORN as a partner occurred in February, long after the January 15th Census partnership application deadline. (One Census official had bet "it was under Bush.")
Among other conclusions from the documents:
- The Census Bureau requested that ACORN "help us highlight [ACORN's] innovation and hard work and share best practices so other organizations can learn from your experiences."
- Members of the Census Bureau and Department of Commerce staff assigned to organize the 2010 Census were unaware of when the decision to involve ACORN was made, how the Census Bureau choose and defined partners, or whether partners received payment.
- The Census Bureau did not conduct background checks on the 3.7 million people hired to conduct the 2000 Census, unless a preliminary name check provided a match. Overall, 8% of the applicants, or over 300,000 people, were considered risks for hire.
According to the U.S. Census documents, among other things, census data is used to allocate $300 billion in federal funds. Census data also "determines how many seats each state will have in the House of Representatives as well as the redistricting of state legislatures, county and city councils, and voting districts."
"Given its history of illegal activity and fraud, ACORN should be nowhere near the 2010 Census," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "And shame on the Obama Commerce Department for continuing to demonize conservatives by lumping together law enforcement and anti-immigration groups with ‘hate groups.’ This discriminatory policy raises First Amendment concerns. Indeed, these documents provide further evidence that the Obama administration is politicizing the 2010 Census."
Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Census on March 23, 2009. After the Obama Commerce Department stonewalled, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on May 14, 2009. The documents were released to Judicial Watch on May 15, 2009.