Monday, August 30, 2010

Dallas congresswoman gave up to $20,000 in scholarships to two grandsons, two great-nephews and top aide's children

WASHINGTON – Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson awarded eight scholarships last year to her grandsons and a top aide’s children -- bringing to 23 the number of scholarships she handed out since 2005 in violation of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation eligibility rules.
A previously undisclosed list, provided Monday afternoon by the foundation, shows that Johnson’s grandsons Kirk and David Johnson, along with the children of her district director in Dallas, Rod Givens, each received two scholarships last year, under two competitions run by the foundation.

Together, the Johnsons and Givenses accounted for half the 16 scholarships the longtime Dallas Democratic lawmaker handed out in 2009 with foundation funds.

None of the other eight recipients got more than one scholarship.

The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that over the last five years, Johnson has awarded up to $20,000 in scholarships to two grandsons, two great-nephews, and Givens' children between 2005 and 2008.

The students should have been ineligible under anti-nepotism rules in the scholarship program, foundation officials said. They also would not have qualified because recipients are supposed to live or study in congressional districts represented by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The disclosure of the 2009 awards is sure to intensify the focus on Johnson's handling of the scholarship funds. Already, her election opponent is accusing her of "corruption" over the issues.

"Eighteen years in office breeds corruption," Stephen Broden, a Republican pastor who is challenging the nine-term Dallas Democrat, said Monday on WBAP's Mark Davis Show. "We need to really have a change that emphasizes the needs of the district over self-interest and self-aggrandizement."

Johnson has acknowledged violating the scholarship rules but said she did so unknowingly. And the congresswoman plans to repay the funds “by the end of this week,” Johnson spokeswoman Dena Craig said Monday night.

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