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Tale of the Totem: $23G Census Project to Thaw Alaska Hearts and Minds Questioned


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Tale of the Totem: $23G Census Project to Thaw Alaska Hearts and Minds Questioned
Published August 12, 2010 | FoxNews.com
They tried mailings, launched a multimillion-dollar national ad campaign, hired tens of thousands of people -- they even tried a totem pole.

The $20,000 totem pole art project was commissioned by the Census Bureau with a local Alaskan artist and meant to incorporate both native Alaskan symbols with the spirit of the census and help engage the disparate and hard-to-count communities of America's largest state.

The totem didn't work.

Data provided by the Census Bureau shows that Alaska's mail-in response rate actually was lower this year than in 2000. Sixty-two percent of Alaska residents mailed back their census forms in 2010, compared with 64 percent in 2000.

Not only that, but despite a tripling of the bureau's ad budget to about $340 million, the mail-in response rate nationwide clocked in at 72 percent -- same as a decade ago.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who's been highly critical of what he claims is census over-spending, said Thursday the totem pole was just "the latest example of a mismanaged agency spending taxpayers' money like it grows on trees -- or totem poles."

"The American people are right to be furious with a Washington that spends so recklessly, cooks the books to cover its tracks and thinks it's a good idea to buy a $23,000 totem pole while more than 14.6 million people are unemployed," he said in a written statement to FoxNews.com.

Still, the bureau has touted this year's results and is standing by the totem pole, which is making its way from Alaska to Washington, D.C., this week. The shipping costs have added another $3,100 to the project -- putting the total totem price tag at about $23,000. snip
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