Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has admitted to breaking anti-nepotism rules by awarding Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to her grandchildren and to the children of her aides.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Johnson improperly awarded the scholarships (which are funded by donations, not taxpayer money) to two grandchildren, two grand-nephews and to her district director’s two children. Between 2005 and 2008, she awarded a total of 15 scholarships to the six students. She told the News that no single award was more than $1,200 and that if there were more “very worthy applicants in my district,” she might not have given the scholarships to her relatives. She also apparently broke the rules by awarding scholarships to students outside of her district.
Johnson said she never intentionally broke the rules and did not “personally benefit” from the scholarships.
Each caucus member is given $10,000 in scholarships a year to give to students in their district. The only eligibility requirements are that they live within the district, have a minimum 2.5 grade point average and are not related to a caucus member.
The foundation’s lawyer said Johnson’s actions are of “great concern,” adding that the foundation works on an “honor system.”
“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,” said Amy Goldson. “Scholarship funds awarded to an ineligible student must be returned.”
Johnson said she would cooperate.
“While I did not personally benefit, I never intentionally violated any rules and I have never restricted my helping a student based on his/her residence. In order to avoid any further appearance of impropriety, I will work with the [foundation] to rectify the financial situation,” she told the News in a statement.
A spokesman for the CBC did not immediately return a request for comment.