Symptom of the Disease: Congress-critter hands out scholarship dollars to relatives

I’ve been thinking about writing a book. Have discussed the project with Jim multiple times during the last 18 months. I’d call it Symptoms of the Disease of course, and it would highlight stories like Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) dishing out scholarships from a charitable foundation to family members.

The book would be some sort of combination between Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, and Michelle Malkin’s Culture of Corruption. You see, Mark does a great job defining the real problem – the disease – and Michelle does an awesome job detailing the symptoms that have developed.

Put them together and you’ve got a best seller I figure, or at least something I would want to read. Maybe someday …

Anyway, back to Rep. Johnson who figures it’s perfectly fine to hand out thousands of dollars in scholarship dollars to family members. I wonder if they even needed to apply for the funds? From the Dallas Morning News with a hat tip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. (I’m happy to see local journalists like Todd Gillman and Christy Hoppe pointing this stuff out.)

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.”

The system has grown so huge that corruption is not just the exclusive domain of taxpayer funds, this is a fund set up with private and corporate donations delivered to the Congressional Black Caucus. Then, the members of the caucus have a great amount of discretion concerning who they give the scholarships to.

No chance for political pay-offs there! Maybe it went down something like this…

Lobbyist: Rep. Johnson! We’d like you to support us or maybe even sponsor this legislation.

Johnson: Oh really? Well, why don’t you just make a contribution to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and I’ll take a look.

Lobbyist: Thank you!

… a few hours later Rep. Johnson calls her Aunt Judy …

Johnson: Hey Aunt Judy, I think I may be able to help pay next semester’s tuition bill…

Of course, Johnson now admits she “unknowingly” broke the rules, and will work with the caucus to solve the issue.

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’s even more interesting is that Congressional Black Caucus members not only have great discretion when it comes to handing out the money, they can also choose how – and if – they elect to promote the program. Johnson’s website does not mention the program at all – so she’s got slush funds available for friends and family.

Morrissey notes

It’s for this precise scenario that most charitable organizations use independent boards to select recipients for outlays.  Instead of putting the individual Representative in the role of paymaster, a smarter and less fraught method would be for the CBC to handle these applications in an aggregate manner and then have an independent panel make the final decisions, even while Representatives nominate constituents for the awards.  Why don’t they do that?  Because the entire purpose of the scholarships is to make the individual Representatives get the credit for giving the money to the students, so they can get their names in the paper and keep getting re-elected.

Exit question: How many kids in her district could use the funds but were not informed about the program?

Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. Dimsdale on August 30, 2010 at 5:52 am

    This would never happen with the Congressional White Caucus!  Oh wait, that would be a racist group…  (and doubtlessly just as corrupt).

  2. scottm on August 30, 2010 at 6:01 am

    At least it was a worthy, although selfish cause.  At least they didn't spend it on lap dances at a strip club, which is what the RNC did. 

  3. Steve M on August 30, 2010 at 6:29 am

    @scottm: The RNC got their funds back for that stupid escapade in California from a low-level staffer. I'm all for firing those dopes and you'll note a significant number of conservatives have refused to donate a dime to the RNC for years, preferring to donate directly to candidates they support, even outside their district.

    How do you know the family members and staff family members of the good congresswoman were worthy? Did you see their application? Familiar with their financial situation? The game was rigged from the start since it seems only select folks in her district knew about the scholarship program in the first place.

    Will you call for those funds to be immediately returned and have a proper independent board review applications after the appropriate amount of promotion is done?

  4. Dimsdale on August 30, 2010 at 6:43 am

    "Worthy" or not, the rules are clear: no nepotism.  I am intrigued that "selfish" can be "worthy".  That opens a real can of worms.


    And note that I was just as hard on that Republican funding his daughter's pet project in Africa.


    Strip the money from the recipients, prosecute the person that "bent" the rules, and kick them out of Congress.   Regardless of party.

  5. PatRiot on August 30, 2010 at 7:01 am

    If I recall, during the housing mess, one Barbara (Babs) Boxer pulled a fast one too.  She has nothing to do with the Committee handling the mess.  Yet she ran over and demanded $25 milllion for her state that ended up in her husband.s realty firm. 

    Wrong is wrong, regardless of party, race, etc.

    Every day it becomes clearer that there are 3 things missing in D.C. : truth, common sense and respect.

  6. scottm on August 30, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I don't know if worthy is the right word and what was done was wrong.  My point was that a lot worse has been done than trying to help get a family member into college. 

  7. Tim-in-Alabama on August 30, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Rep. Johnson is yet another poster child for the culture of corruption that has festered under the leadership of Obama-Biden-Reid-Pelosi-Soros, and has been enabled and covered up by their criminal accomplices at msnbc-DailyKos-HuffingtonPost-CBS-NBC-NYTimes-ABC-WashingtonPost-LATimes-BostonGlobe, et al. It's time to drain the swamp and get rid of these people. Obama is pedaling us off a cliff, and it's time to elect honest Republicans this fall and in two years, a president who doesn't need training wheels.

  8. scottm on August 30, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Tim, honest republicans?  Attorney General Alex Gonzales had to resign because he instructed 9 lawyers not to bring lawsuits against republicans only democrats, that scandal alone took out like 15 members of the Bush administration.  The Jack Abramoff scandal, the Scooter Libby scandal, the Poindexter terrorist betting scandal, Tom Delay's wife and daughter being paid 500K for helping with his campaign, the Tom Delay money laundering.  It goes on and on, honest republican is an oxymoron.

  9. Dimsdale on August 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I think you should expunge the partisanship and make your last sentence "An honest politician is an oxymoron, or at least, a very rare exception".  They are almost all stinking, dirty frauds and snake oil salesmen.


    Hence the TEA party.

  10. chris-os on August 31, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    [Edited by Admin]: Chris, I deleted your comment here and added it back over at the Sharpton post within your original comment.

  11. NH-Jim on September 1, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Scottm: "I don’t know if worthy is the right word and what was done was wrong.  My point was that a lot worse has been done than trying to help get a family member into college."

    Scott, I don't believe you have thought this all the way through.  Let's say, for argument's sake, the CBC handed out $10k.  And, Rep. Johnson handed that $10k out to family members.  That is $10k less of her family's own money being paid to a higher learning institute and $10k more being put in her (their) pocket.

    If this type of nepotism is less of an egregious act than the others you have pointed out, then I will plan to run for congress because I have a daughter that will be entering college in about 8 years.  I could use the kickbacks too.  Oh, but wait, I am an honest and ethical person and I am also a Republican.


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