Letters Show Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Steered CBC Scholarship Money Directly to Her Grandsons
On August 29, the Dallas Morning News dropped a bombshell into the race for House District 30 in Texas: Nine-term Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democrat, had evidently abused her position to push Congressional Black Caucus scholarship money toward several of her relatives and the children of her aides over the course of several years. According to the News:
Longtime Dallas congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson has awarded thousands of dollars in college scholarships to four relatives and a top aide's two children since 2005, using foundation funds set aside for black lawmakers' causes.
The recipients were ineligible under anti-nepotism rules of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which provided the money. And all of the awards violated a foundation requirement that scholarship winners live or study in a caucus member's district.
Johnson, a Democrat, denied any favoritism when asked about the scholarships last week. Two days later, she acknowledged in a statement released by her office that she had violated the rules but said she had done so "unknowingly" and would work with the foundation to "rectify the financial situation."
It's that "unknowingly" part that, first, makes no sense, and second, is now clearly not true. The CBC's scholarship program is unambiguous on the subject of nepotism. Relatives of CBC members -- and Johnson is not only a member, but has chaired the CBC -- are not eligible. Johnson's grandchildren also didn't meet residency requirements.
Johnson took to the air on Sept 2, going on CNN with Anderson Cooper to argue in favor of her ignorance. She didn't know the rules, she said, the rules were ambiguous, she said, and she hadn't seen the rules, and she had no direct knowledge that any of this was going on. She even claims that she didn't know the rules were in print -- implying that their being in print is itself part of the problem. It's evidently a problem in one sense: Their being in clear, unambiguous print makes it harder to spin the problem away.