With U.S. Census workers peering down from second-floor windows, Democratic congressional candidate Mark Critz on Thursday scolded the bureau for spending millions on foreign-made apparel.
“It’s appalling,” Critz said from the sidewalk outside the Census Bureau’s downtown Johnstown headquarters beside the post office.
“We’re in a position where unemployment is going up. People are in pain. Children are in pain,” he told a handful of supporters, along with media and aides. He held up articles of clothing so their “Made in” labels could be seen.
“With (John) Murtha, it was ‘Buy American,’ ” said Critz, who was an aide to the late congressman.
“We have to support one another.”
He also said the U.S. needs to close loopholes that give tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.
Pam Golden, a Census Bureau spokeswoman in Pittsburgh, acknowledged that the government spent $6.4 million on Census 2010 hats made in China and shirts from El Salvador.
But she said there were extenuating circumstances: The purchases were made on short notice to meet the bureau’s “March to the Mailbox” promotional campaign last month.
Further, Golden said, the apparel was bought through small businesses in the United States and according to federal procurement rules. “We basically bought existing products,” she said.
She said the embroidery and printing were done in the U.S.
Critz decried the purchases, saying, “We used to have hat and shirt factories all over this district.”
But he denied he was egging on a trade war.
“We have to work with these countries,” Critz said.
“It’s not a matter of drawing a line in the sand. It’s a conversation that needs to take place.”
In the regular course of their duties, Golden said, census workers only receive an official bag.
She couldn’t immediately say in what countries those bags were made.
Golden wouldn’t say whether the bureau should have done things differently in buying the promotional items.
Higher-ups in the agency did not immediately reply to this question.
She did say that the
$6.4 million outlay was only a tiny fraction of the bureau’s $400 million communications budget.