Articles

29Jul

Senate Appropriators Demand Census Bureau Transparency on Ask U.S. Panel

The Senate Appropriations Committee will require a detailed report from the U.S. Census Bureau about the Ask U.S. Panel.

The Insights Association, the leading nonprofit organization representing the insights industry, has been advocating in Washington, DC to bring transparency to the Ask U.S. Panel, which aims to create a probability-based nationwide representative survey panel for tracking public opinion. IA’s Senior VP Advocacy Howard Fienberg warned that, “this project could waste millions of taxpayer dollars in a vain attempt to compete with existing online research panel providers, instead of simply purchasing those services on the open market for a fraction of the cost.”

As elucidated in the Senate Appropriations report accompanying the committee’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 CJS funding legislation on July 28, 2022:

  • The Committee is concerned about the lack of transparency related to the Census Bureau’s plans for implementation of the Ask U.S. Panel Survey, particularly given the lack of congressional authorization and the expanding scope of the project since it was initially announced. The Bureau is directed to provide a report to the Committee, no later than 60 days following enactment of this act, on the Ask U.S. Panel Survey’s methodology, data collection processes, implementation, incurred and projected costs, and procurement strategy.

The House Appropriations Committee took a more low-key approach when passing their version of the legislation on June 28, adding the following notice to the House CJS committee report:

  • The Committee acknowledges the ongoing work of the OIG regarding the ‘‘Evaluation of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Award and Use of a Cooperative Agreement (#2022–420)’’ and expects the OIG to keep the Committee apprised of its findings.

Fienberg testified to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in May that federal agencies can (and already do) purchase such services from the private sector; the Ask U.S. Panel project is an unnecessary financial burden on federal taxpayers; the federal government should not compete against the private sector; and the government should not subsidize a private entity to develop (and keep for its own use) duplicative intellectual property.

The Insights Association’s testimony concluded that, “IA remains gravely concerned about the shaky rationale and lack of need for the Ask U.S. Panel given numerous commercially-viable alternatives. The Census Bureau should be using the competitive marketplace of available insights services to acquire pre-existing research services on an as-needed basis, which would reduce public burden, save years of development time, and ultimately cost taxpayers a lot less money.

Neither committee report will have the force of law until Congress approves a final FY23 funding package, which likely will not happen until after the November elections. IA will continue to work in the meantime to shine a light on the Census Bureau’s wasteful Ask U.S. Panel project.

The Insights Association defends and promotes the indisputable role of insights in driving positive impacts on society and consumers. Our more than 7,000 company and individual members are the world’s leading producers of intelligence, analytics and insights defining the needs, attitudes and behaviors of consumers, organizations and their employees, students and citizens. With that essential understanding, leaders can make intelligent decisions and deploy strategies and tactics to build trust, inspire innovation, realize the full potential of individuals and teams, and successfully create and promote products, services and ideas.

About the Author

Howard Fienberg

Howard Fienberg

Based in Washington, DC, Howard is the Insights Association's lobbyist for the marketing research and data analytics industry, focusing primarily on consumer privacy and data security, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), tort reform, and the funding and integrity of the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS). Howard has more than two decades of public policy experience. Before the Insights Association, he worked in Congress as senior legislative staffer for then-Representatives Christopher Cox (CA-48) and Cliff Stearns (FL-06). He also served more than four years with a science policy think tank, working to improve the understanding of scientific and social research and methodology among journalists and policymakers. Howard is also co-director of The Census Project, a 900+ member coalition in support of a fair and accurate Census and ACS. He has also served previously on the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics and and the Association of Government Relations Professionals. Howard has an MA International Relations from the University of Essex in England and a BA Honors Political Studies from Trent University in Canada, and has obtained the Certified Association Executive (CAE), Professional Lobbying Certificate (PLC) and the Public Policy Certificate (PPC). When not running advocacy for the Insights Association, Howard enjoys hockey, NFL football, sci-fi and horror movies, playing with his dog, and spending time with family and friends.

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