More arrogance from a member of Congress. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) violated Congressional Black Caucus Foundation rules by awarding scholarship money to four relatives and a top aide’s two children, according to an attorney for the Foundation.
The Congresswoman first that she showed favoritism but later said in a statement by her office that she “unknowingly” made a mistake with some of the privately funded grants.
Unknowingly? Give me a break. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to realize that you shouldn’t give foundation grants to relatives. At the very least, someone with a bit of common sense would ask. Rep Johnson is a bright woman, so this has nothing to do with common sense, but much to do with arrogance and a belief that there are two sets of rules, one for members of Congress, the other for “us common folk.”
The way the foundations scholarships are supposed to work is members of the Congressional Black Caucus(CBC)are given $10,000 annually for scholarships and they have great leeway in how they pick winners. However, the awards come with an anti-nepotism rule and require winners to live or study in the lawmaker’s district.
Initially, she said, “I recognized the names when I saw them. And I knew that they had a need just like any other kid that would apply for one.” Had there been more “very worthy applicants in my district,” she added, “then I probably wouldn’t have given it” to the relatives.
What she meant to say is “if I realized I might have been caught, then I probably wouldn’t have given it to the relatives”. Johnson is not only the former Chair of the CBC, but she served on the board of the foundation. If she didn’t have a general idea of the rules, she couldn’t have been very good board member.
In her interview with The Dallas Morning News, on Wednesday, Johnson said “hundreds of kids got scholarships since I have been here.”
“The most that any kid normally gets is from $1,000 to $1,200. … If it was a secret or if I was trying to hide it, I wouldn’t have done it,” she said.
The foundation’s general counsel, Amy Goldson, said Saturday that the scholarships Johnson awarded violated eligibility rules regarding relatives and residency and are “of great concern.”
The program “operates on an honor system,” so the foundation hadn’t known that money went to Johnson’s relatives, she said. But when a recipient fails to meet eligibility requirements or “misrepresents their eligibility, the scholarship funds must be returned.”
Further, Goldson said, the failure of a lawmaker or aides to follow eligibility rules “is a violation of the letter and spirit of [the Foundation’s] requirements.”
“It is inappropriate for a lawmaker to certify the award of a scholarship to a relative in a situation where the lawmaker or their staff is involved in the selection of the recipient,” she said.
Apart from the residency requirements, the scholarship rules state that students must have a 2.5-grade-point average, but there are no explicit judging criteria.
Between 2005 and 2008 approximately one third of her scholarship awards were tainted. Of 43 scholarships her office awarded between 2005 and 2008, 15 went to relatives of Johnson or Givens (her chief aide).
Johnson, in the interview Wednesday, dismissed concerns about the propriety of giving to her relatives or her staffers.
“We look at the kids that apply, look at their qualifications, and if they have the application there with all the ingredients, we try to help,” she said. “I doubt if there is anybody in my district going to question me giving $1,000 to a kid to help him with college.”
Well Johnson is wrong. They are going to question it because their kid should have gotten the award before her relative or her staffers relative. That’s the purpose of this award.
The congresswoman, 74, who is expected to handily win a 10th term this fall over a relatively unknown Republican, said flatly that there was no favoritism for her aide’s children or for her grandsons or great-nephews.
“Same application. Same requirements,” she said.
If you believe that, I have a bridge to nowhere I would like to sell you.
There is much more to this story of congressional arrogance, Ed Morrissey Has more at Hot Air
Jeff Dunetz is editor of the Political Blog The Lid, a contributor to American Thinker, Big Government,Big Hollywood, Big Journalism, and Big Peace, and a Red State diarist