Inside the Trump Administration’s Census Scam
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, is a liar. And according to lawsuits brought by former business partners, a thief. Now he’s attempting his biggest swindle yet: rigging the 2020 census to favor the Republican Party.
A vulture capitalist with no experience in government, whose private-equity firm was fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission for bilking investors out of millions, Ross was a tidy fit for Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which the president stocked with tycoons despite campaigning as a champion of the forgotten man. “I just don’t want a poor person,” Trump said of his top economic posts. He saw Ross — supposedly the richest of the lot — as a fellow traveler, a self-made billionaire with few scruples. Touting Ross at a rally in Cincinnati, Trump boasted, “I put on a killer.”
In Ross’ Commerce Department — as in so much of the Trump administration — the line between public interest and personal profit is fuzzy. The secretary’s tenure has been roiled by conflicts of interest, including working on steel tariffs while holding steel assets. Ross has been forced to issue a number of belated financial disclosures and mea culpas. Delaney Marsco, an ethics lawyer at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, documented Ross’ “possible violations of law” in a complaint to Commerce’s inspector general. Ross’ “shocking and upsetting” MO, Marsco says, is “I’m so rich that I’m above the law.”