In his quest to expose "every dishonest politician, bureaucrat, and business in America," conservative filmmaker James "ACORN pimp" O'Keefe has a new target — the U.S. Census Bureau. While working as a Census worker in New Jersey, O'Keefe filmed his bosses instructing Census workers to, in O'Keefe's words, "falsify" their timecards. "Over the course of two days of training," says O'Keefe in Big Government, "I was paid for four hours of work I never did." If all 600,000 U.S. Census workers were given that much extra pay, says O'Keefe, it would cost taxpayers $43.8 million. Has O'Keefe uncovered serious Census "fraud" — or is he making the problem sound bigger than it is? (Watch O'Keefe's undercover footage)
How trivial: James O'Keefe claims he uncovered "serious federal 'corruption,'" says Joe Conason in Salon, but the only thing his "probe into nothingness" really exposed was "his own pettiness." O'Keefe, as always, edited out everything his subjects said that made them look honest. And the Census bosses gained nothing here — the only people who may have pocketed an "extra $30 or $40" were probably "unemployed, desperate people" who needed the cash.
"O'Keefe's latest: A small-time probe of the Census"
The Census is a waste: "If you’re a liberal who likes spending other people’s money," says Bob Ellis in Dakota Voice, then the "payroll fraud" uncovered by O'Keefe is "peanuts." But "even some rank-and-file" leftists must understand that this is just a symptom of the massive waste not just in the Census program, but everywhere in the federal government. This serious problem needed to be exposed.
"The Census sting: Tax dollars at play"
Good premise — bad execution: "Shining some light on the inevitable waste of a taxpayer-funded bureaucracy is a good thing," says McKay Coppins in Newsweek. The trouble is, O'Keefe's video shows that he inflated both the wages of Census employees — the average worker makes $14.78 an hour, not the $18.25 O'Keefe received — and the amount of idle time for which he was paid, increasing the amount of alleged waste by millions. Remember, O'Keefe: when speaking truth to power, "make sure what you’re saying is actually true."
"Dissecting the ACORN 'pimp's' new Census video"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- In defense of Gwyneth Paltrow
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Republicans love this new health care plan. Too bad it's basically a tax cut for the rich.
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- 8 tricks to surviving the holidays without gaining weight or being grouchy
- How to buy an engagement ring — a man's guide
Subscribe to the Week