- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

President Obama on Thursday nominated Robert M. Groves to be the next census director, sparking an uproar among some Republican lawmakers who oppose the use of a statistical sampling method once championed by the longtime sociology professor.

Mr. Groves was nominated as the Census Bureau makes final preparations for the 2010 national head count.

A Census Bureau associate director of statistical design from 1990 to 1992, Mr. Groves recommended that the 1990 census be adjusted to make up for a perceived undercount of roughly 5 million people. Using the census findings, he advocated that statistical sampling be used to extrapolate the uncounted from the actual head count, prompting questions from Republicans about Mr. Groves’ political intentions.

“Mr. Groves reportedly advocated a scheme to use computer analysis to manipulate census data, rather than simply conducting an accurate count of the American people,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

“We will have to watch closely to ensure the 2010 census is conducted without attempting similar statistical sleight of hand,” he said.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the selection “incredibly troubling.”

He said the nomination “contradicts the administration’s assurances that the census process would not be used to advance an ulterior political agenda.”

The census already has caused political headaches for Mr. Obama, who reportedly decided to shift control of the agency from the Commerce Department to political operatives in the White House. Mr. Obama’s initial nominee to head the department, Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, withdrew his name from consideration soon afterward.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has rejected sampling, saying “it is my understanding that there are no plans to use any type of statistical sampling with respect to population count.” Mr. Locke also has declared that the census director would report directly to him, not the White House.

On Thursday, Mr. Locke expressed his support for Mr. Groves.

“The decennial Census faces significant challenges, but I am confident that Robert´s leadership will help us meet those challenges. He is a respected social scientist who will run the Census Bureau with integrity and independence,” Mr. Locke said in a statement.

The census, set out in the Constitution, has enormous political impact, affecting congressional districts, federal spending decisions and the makeup of the Electoral College.

Mr. Groves, 60, a professor at the University of Michigan, could not be reached for comment and did not release a statement on his nomination. It was not clear whether he still advocates the sampling method or whether his stance changed after a Supreme Court ruling a decade ago.

In 1999, the high court ruled that the use of statistical sampling cannot be used to apportion House seats, but indicated that adjustments could be made to the population count when redrawing congressional boundaries.

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