The Commerce Department's official government watchdog wants to know why and how the Census Bureau hired a couple of political appointees to help lead the 2020 Census.
Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson fired off a letter to Census Director Steven Dillingham Tuesday asking about the hirings of Nathaniel Cogley and Adam Korzeniewski last month.
Cogley, a Trump-defending political scientist, was named deputy director for policy at the Census, and Korzeniewski was named his senior adviser. Korzeniewski is a Republican political consultant who lately advised race-baiting YouTube personality Joey Salads.
The apparently unprecedented late hiring of two new political appointees to oversee the the constitutionally mandate decennial population count sparked consternation among Census advocates who feared the hires reveled intentions to politicize the Census, even after the administration lost its battle to add a citizenship question that courts ruled improper.
Neither of the pair have any apparent experience running a complex, multi-billion dollar endeavor, but Gustafson notes in her letter that her office has repeatedly labeled "the decennial census as the most significant
challenge facing the Department."
In her letter, Gustafson wants to see job descriptions for the two, the pay rates, any "analyses, studies, memoranda, justifications, correspondence, plans, budgets, or similar documents" that show why the jobs were created and what they're supposed to accomplish, anything that shows the new hires' "suitability for the new positions," and anything that shows how they were recruited, interviewed and ultimately hired.
The Census is used to determine congressional districts for the next 10 years, and is used to guide the distribution of some $1.5 trillion in federal spending every year.
Advocates were already on edge because to the White House's attempt to add the citizenship question, which the Census Bureau's own experts had warned would lead to undercounts of minorities. In the course of lawsuits that the Supreme Court ultimately supported, documents revealed that although the administration claimed it wanted citizenship data to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, the impetus behind the question was a desire to favor white, Republican voters.
Gustafson gave Dillingham until July 20 to respond.
She was not the only one alarmed by the hiring of two political hands with little background in Census issues. Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran and New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also wrote to Dillingham Tuesday to raise a red flag over the pair.
"We expect that data processing will be free from political interference and that the highest standards of integrity and fairness will be upheld," the senators wrote, noting that the data already is delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We will be closely watching to ensure this is the case."