Credit the Dallas Morning News for its determination to get to the bottom of the scandal surrounding Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and the nepotism of her CBC scholarship awards. After they exposed the fact that Johnson had broken the rules set out by the Congressional Black Caucus that barred relatives from receiving scholarships, Johnson attempted to parry that charge by claiming she had nothing to do with selecting the recipients and had left that to aides. According to letters obtained by the Morning News, however, Johnson was not only involved in the decision to give the money to her family members, she also personally intervened to make sure they literally received it, instead of their schools:
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson apparently asked the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to send scholarship checks directly to her two grandsons and two great-nephews, rather than to their colleges.
Johnson has insisted repeatedly that she left scholarship decisions to aides.
But two letters she sent the foundation from 2006 undermine claims that she wasn’t involved in obtaining $31,000 for her relatives and two other ineligible recipients.
D’oh! Never leave a paper trail, Rep. Johnson. Enterprising reporters like Todd Gillman and Christy Hoppe will eventually come along to follow the money back to its source — or, in this case, her Republican challenger, Stephen Broden. Not only did Johnson sign the letters, she sent them from her Dallas office fax machine, and on House letterhead. That may be enough to get the House Ethics Committee interested in Johnson’s attempt to fund her grandchildren’s education through a charity dodge.
This also should shine a spotlight on the CBC, too. Didn’t anyone think it odd to get a request to redirect scholarship money from the school to the student? The checks had already been sent out to the college, Texas Christian University. Johnson’s letter noted that she had enclosed those originals and requested that they be rewritten to be paid to the students individually. Usually, although not always, charity scholarships get paid to the schools, which then apply them to the tuition and expenses of the individual students, rather than to the students themselves.
Johnson was a lot more involved in these decisions than she admitted. In fact, it appears that Johnson has been lying about this from the moment it got reported by the Morning News and picked up around the country. Her constituents deserve better.
Update: Johnson’s opponent is Stephen Broden, not Brody, as I initially wrote. I’ve fixed it above.