“Top Trump Census Official Communicated With GOP Operative About Citizenship Question”

Mark Joseph Stern for Slate:

On Friday night, however, voting rights advocates released new evidence connecting Hofeller directly to the Census Bureau. The evidence comes from Hofeller’s hard drives, which his daughter gave to a voting rights group after his death. It reveals that Christa Jones, current chief of staff to Census Bureau deputy director Ron Jarmin, personally communicated with Hofeller, emailing him about the citizenship question in 2015—months before Hofeller authored the study explaining how the question would benefit white voters and disadvantage non-white ones.* Jones played a key role in the creation of the citizenship question, so these emails seem to disprove the administration’s claims that Hofeller had nothing to do with the manipulation of the census.

Jones and Hofeller’s relationship goes back to at least 2010. That year, Jones—then a civil servant at the Census Bureau—sent Hofeller an email from her private Hotmail account about a Sean Hannity segment. The Fox News host had condemned the bureau for airing an ad during the Super Bowl encouraging everyone to participate in the 2010 census. Jones emailed a transcript of the segment to Hofeller, writing: “They could really hurt the census. What do you think?” The two then discussed whether the ad was a waste of money. It is unclear why Jones, who again was then a civil servant in the Census Bureau, was communicating with Hofeller about bureau affairs from her private account.

Five years later, Jones emailed Hofeller once again from her Hotmail account, alerting him that the bureau was collecting public comments on the 2020 census. “Public comments highly useful in this context,” Jones wrote. The next day, she sent a follow-up email, telling Hofeller: “This can also be an opportunity to mention citizenship as well.” Jones appears to have been advising Hofeller to file a public comment encouraging the bureau to adopt a citizenship question.


Other emails prove that Jones communicated with Hofeller and other Republican strategists throughout this period about redistricting-related matters. For instance, in 2010, Jones forwarded an email from Burton Reist, director of the 2010 census communications campaign, to Hofeller and Mark Neuman that highlighted a website debunking “misleading information” about the census. (Neuman, a friend of Hofeller’s, provided the 2017 letter that appeared to draw from the 2015 Hofeller memo to create a legal rationale for the citizenship question.) Jones and Hofeller appear to have met for dinner in 2015 with an unknown third person. And Jones was on a 2010 email thread with Hofeller and several Republican operatives—including David Avella of GOPAC, a Republican training group, and Charles Black, ex-partner of Paul Manafort and Roger Stone—discussing redistricting.

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