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Companies warn Trump: Census citizenship question could be costly

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Companies warn Trump: Census citizenship question could be costly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An array of U.S. companies have told the Trump administration that a citizenship question on the 2020 Census would harm business if it leads to an undercount of immigrants, undermining the data they use to place stores, plan inventory and plot ad campaigns.

FILE PHOTO: An informational pamphlet is displayed at an event for community activists and local government leaders to mark the one-year-out launch of the 2020 Census efforts in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 1, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Corporate executives, lobbyists and representatives from major industry groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers have raised the issue in meetings with government officials, according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the matter. Some meetings date back to 2017, when the administration was first mulling adding the question.

Industry officials continue to seek assurances from the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department that the question’s impact on the quality of Census data will be minimized, according to the sources, who described the meetings on condition of anonymity.

The pressure reflects the economic importance of the decennial count of America’s inhabitants.

The Census is used to draw voting districts and divide some $800 billion in federal programs. For companies, it provides the most detailed picture available of consumer and labor markets. Under the administration’s proposal, the Census would ask whether respondents are citizens of the United States for the first time in 70 years.

Corporate America finds itself in an unlikely alliance with immigrant advocacy groups that have sued to block the question on the basis it could scare immigrants out of participating, and therefore cost their communities funds and political representation. The Supreme Court plans to hear arguments on the case next week.

Clothes-maker Levi Strauss & Co , transport companies Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc and media group Univision Communications Inc are among a handful of companies supporting that lawsuit. In court documents, they said the citizenship question “threatens to undermine (the) reliability of Census data and therefore substantially reduce its value to businesses.”

Few other companies or trade groups, however, have been willing to discuss their opposition to the citizenship question publicly. In interviews, sources said they are only voicing opinions in private meetings, out of concern about a White House backlash.

Spokespeople for several major trade groups along with big name companies like Walmart Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Amazon.com Inc and many others either declined to offer a statement for this story or did not respond to requests for comment.

“While corporations and business groups are reluctant to enter the political turmoil surrounding the citizenship question on the 2020 Census, they nonetheless depend heavily on accurate Census data for their operations,” said DeVere Kutscher, executive director of the Census Business Coalition, one of the main groups advocating on behalf of industry.

“As a result, they are focusing their efforts on what they can do to support a complete, secure, and accurate count, and are understandably concerned about the impact of any factor which could jeopardize that,” he added.

Underscoring the political stakes, earlier this month President Donald Trump ripped “radical” Democrats opposed to the citizenship question on Twitter, saying a Census without such a question would be “meaningless.”

The Census Bureau has taken pains to ensure everyone is counted, Burton Reist, a longtime Census official who oversees decennial communications and stakeholder relations, said in an interview. In response to questions about the business community’s view on the citizenship question, a spokesman pointed Reuters to the Census Bureau’s official responses to stakeholders.

The Commerce Department, which houses the Census Bureau, declined to comment.

Documents released through litigation confirm that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with dozens of interested parties, including business groups, to get their views before announcing his decision to add the citizenship question last year.

While many expressed concerns that the question would hurt response rates, Ross was not convinced, according to a March 2018 memo he wrote explaining his decision. He said data from the question would help the Department of Justice enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

AN “MRI” FOR BUSINESS

The stakes are high in getting an accurate count.

Retailers like Walmart and Target Corp use Census data to decide where to open stores or distribution hubs, and what to stock on shelves.

Big banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co use the information similarly for branch strategy, and real-estate firms scrutinize the statistics to determine where to build homes and shopping centers.

TV networks like Univision, meanwhile, rely on the numbers to plan programing in local markets. And the Census is an important input for tech giants like Google when they create myriad data-based products, such as maps.

“You get households, number of people, number of bedrooms, income, gender, age, race, marital status — it’s almost like an MRI,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. “And it all goes into assessing where and how to provide goods and services.”

Underscoring how the survey can drive major business decisions, Amazon’s 20-city search for a new headquarters location also had Census data at its core.

Having failed to convince the administration to drop the question, companies are now focused on programs to encourage people to participate in the Census to bolster data quality, sources said.

Efforts could include company-wide email messages to employees, prominently displaying a link to the Census on corporate web sites or setting up physical stations where customers can fill out the survey inside of stores or malls, the sources said.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Ahead of the 2010 Census, McDonald’s Corp featured information on restaurant placemats, Walmart greeters handed out flyers, big retailers featured reminders on receipts and utility companies stuck inserts into electric, gas and water bills.

Such programs have been helpful in the past, said John Thompson, who spent nearly 30 years at the Census Bureau before leaving as director in 2017. But whether they can overcome the negative impact of the citizenship question is an open question.

“They’ve got a tougher row to hoe,” he said.

Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Kenneth Li, Herb Lash and Caroline Humer in New York; and Katie Paul and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Paul Thomasch

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Cindy McCain responds to reports that her family will endorse Joe Biden in 2020 race

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Cindy McCain responds to reports that her family will endorse Joe Biden in 2020 race

Cindy McCain, the widow of late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., responded to the reports that her family will endorse former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

McCain tweeted Wednesday: “Joe Biden is a wonderful man and dear friend of the McCain Family. However, I have no intention of getting involved in presidential politics.”

Her daughter, “The View” host Meghan McCain retweeted the remarks.

JOE BIDEN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

Biden officially announced his candidacy for president Thursday in a video message, capping off weeks of reports that he will join the crowded Democratic field. Biden unsuccessfully ran for president in 1988 and 2008.

McCain’s comment comes after a report in the Washington Examiner that said the McCain family would support Biden. The report cited sources close to the family.

“The source said they expected Meghan McCain to speak out in favor of Biden should he get the nomination, but a Cindy McCain endorsement could come sooner,” according to the Washington Examiner.

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During the 2016 presidential election, Sen. John McCain withdrew his support for then-candidate Donald Trump following the “Access Hollywood” tape. Trump recently criticized McCain by saying he was not “a fan” of the late senator. McCain died in August 2018 after a battle with cancer. Trump has made a habit of attacking McCain, even after his death.

Fox News’ Liam Quinn contributed to this report.

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Ocasio-Cortez-aligned group attacks Biden, says he’s ‘out-of-touch’ with Democratic Party

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Joe Biden announces 2020 presidential bid: 3 things to know about the former vice president

A progressive political group that boosted New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s bid for Congress last year vowed to oppose former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, blasting him as part of the “old guard” and accusing him of standing in opposition to the “center of energy” in the Democratic Party.

JOE BIDEN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL BID

“While we’re going to support the Democratic nominee, we can’t let a so-called ‘centrist’ like Joe Biden divide the Democratic Party and turn it into the party of ‘No, we can’t,’” the group Justice Democrats said Thursday.

Biden announced his candidacy for president Thursday. He enters a crowded field of Democratic contenders aiming to unseat President Trump — nearly 32 years after he announced his first campaign for president. The campaign is Biden’s third bid for the White House, having also unsuccessfully run in 1988 and 2008.

“The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they can’t be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today,” Justice Democrats said. “The party needs new leadership with a bold vision capable of energizing voters in the Democratic base who stayed home in 2016.”

The group added: “Joe Biden stands in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today.”

BIDEN’S SENATE RECORDS HELD BY HIS ALMA MATER WON’T BE RELEASED UNTIL LATE 2019, POSSIBLY EVEN LATER

“Democrats are increasingly uniting around progressive populist policies like ‘Medicare-for-All,’ a Green New Deal, free college, rejecting corporate money, ending mass incarceration and deportation. We don’t need someone who voted for the Iraq War, for mass incarceration, and for the Bankruptcy Reform Act while voting against gay marriage, reproductive rights, and school desegregation,” Justice Democrats said.

Others, though, took issue with the group’s claim about the energy in the party.

“It’s probably worth noting that while this group, Justice Democrats, calls Biden ‘out-of-touch’ with the ‘center of energy’ in the Democratic Party, only 26 of the 79 candidates it endorsed last year won their primaries, and only 7 of those went on to win the general election,” said Nate Silver, the editor of FiveThirtyEight.

According to its website, Justice Democrats says its mission is “to elect a new type of Democratic majority in Congress, one which will create a thriving economy and democracy that works for the people, not big money interests.”

The attacks could foreshadow the looming clash between the progressive and establishment wings of the party: Biden, along with independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — who enjoys the support of Democratic Socialists in the party — have consistently topped the polls in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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Cory Booker’s tax returns shows income from lucrative speaking gigs, royalties

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Cory Booker's tax returns shows income from lucrative speaking gigs, royalties

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker’s tax returns show most of his wealth stems from lucrative speaking engagements and royalties.

Booker, the 2020 candidate who has yet to make a splash in the crowded Democratic field, released 10 years of tax returns on Wednesday after numerous other candidates released their records in recent weeks.

WHO ARE THE WEALTHIEST 2020 DEMS? WITH TAX RETURNS IN, THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE YOU

The New Jersey senator reported income of $152,715 in 2018 for his salary, $22,781 in taxes which amounts to an effective tax rate of 15 percent, significantly lower than Sen. Kamala Harris’ 37 percent or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 26 percent.

Most of Booker’s wealth comes public speaking fees and royalties, including $2 million in speaking fees between 2009 and 2014, nearly $1 million in royalties from 2015 to 2017 after the release of his book, “United.”

But the lower effective tax rate may have something to with Booker’s sizeable charitable donations. In 2018, he donated $24,000 to charity. In total over the 10-year period, the senator donated nearly $460,000 to various organizations and causes.

BETO O’ROURKE CONFRONTED AT TOWN HALL ABOUT STINGY CHARITABLE DONATIONS

This appears to be significantly more in proportion than his opponents like Sanders or former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who faced questions over his household giving to charity just $1,166 in 2017, or about 0.3 percent of their income that year.

At the same time, more than half of those donations made by Booker came in 2013 amid criticism of his role in the founding of a social media company called Waywire, prompting him to give massive amounts of stock to charities in his city.

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The New York Times revealed that Booker’s wealth at the time – $5 million – consisted mostly of shares in the company.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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