Chairwoman Maloney Subpoenas Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for Documents Withheld on Critical Census Errors and Delays

Dec 10, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Dec. 10, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued a subpoena to Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross for the full unredacted set of internal Census documents requested by the Committee last month relating to data errors and delays with the 2020 Census.


“Your approach to Congress’ oversight responsibilities has been abominable,” Chairwoman Maloney wrote to Ross.  “You have repeatedly withheld documents that should have been produced as a matter of course to your Department’s oversight committee.  You have withheld them not only from Congress, but from the independent Government Accountability Office and, according to Census Bureau officials, the federal Judiciary as well.  You also have repeatedly failed to inform the Committee on a timely basis of grave problems with the Census, forcing us time and time again to read about them in the press rather than from the agency you lead.”


On November 19, 2020, the Committee sent a letter to the Census Bureau seeking documents relating to data anomalies first reported by the New York Times.  Instead of producing any documents, the Census Bureau informed the Committee that Ross’ General Counsel at the Department of Commerce was withholding the documents due to “concerns about ongoing litigation.”  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments the following week in a challenge to President Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census count.


On December 2, 2020, the Committee wrote directly to Ross urging him to stop obstructing the Committee’s investigation and produce all the documents previously requested.  Despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to withhold the documents, the Committee obtained three internal documents from another source not only confirming reports that the Census Bureau will take several additional weeks to resolve data anomalies, but indicating that these anomalies are more serious than first reported.


The following day, on December 3, 2020, the Committee heard testimony from Congress’ independent investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), indicating that Ross’ office is also blocking the production of census documents to them.  J. Chris Mihm, the Managing Director of Strategic Issues Team at GAO, testified:  “We have asked them for quite a bit of documentation.  We haven’t received it yet.”


The next day, on December 4, 2020, the New York Times reported that the Census Bureau has now identified additional problems that will delay the delivery of Census data even further.  Again, neither Ross nor the Census Bureau informed the Committee about these latest problems before they appeared in the press. 


Although Ross has now made two document productions to the Committee, they are woefully inadequate, fail to provide even the most basic documents requested by the Committee about the recent anomalies and their resulting delays, and instead includes reams of non-responsive and outdated documents.


“You may have little personal regard for your own ignominious legacy as Secretary of Commerce, but a complete and accurate census is critical for the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of American families in red states and blue states alike,” Chairwoman Maloney wrote.  “They do not want political machinations to jeopardize their fair representation in Congress and their share of $1.5 trillion in federal funds over the next decade for programs that provide healthcare, education, job training, transportation, and many other services.”


The subpoena issued today compels Ross to produce all of the documents first requested by the Committee last month by December 21, 2020.  


Click here to read today’s letter to Secretary Ross.



116th Congress