Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) admitted to awarding thousands of dollars in scholarships to four relatives and a top aide's two children in violation of rules set by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which provided the funds.
The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that the recipients were ineligible for the scholarships due to the CBC Foundation's anti-nepotism rules as well as a requirement they live in the district of the member that awarded them the scholarships.
Each member of the Congressional Black Caucus is given $10,000 annually to award in scholarships; members are given a large amount of leeway in how they choose the winners and disburse the funds.
Johnson initially denied any favoritism when she was contacted by the Morning News last week, but later admitted to having unknowingly violated the rules. She said she would work with the foundation to "rectify the financial situation." She said she has awarded scholarships to hundreds of students since joining Congress in 1993 and the most any student usually receives is between $1,000 and $1,200.
The CBC Foundation's general counsel Amy Goldson said Saturday that the scholarships awarded by Johnson in violation of eligibility requirements are "of great concern." She said recipients found to be ineligible might have to return the scholarship money to the foundation.
Johnson awarded between nine and eleven scholarships annually from 2005 to 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. In each of those years three or four students related to Johnson or her district director Rod Givens were among the winners. Johnson said every qualified applicant got a scholarship and she divided the funds equally among him or her.
Two of the Johnson's grandsons, two of her great-nephews, and Givens's son and daughter were the scholarship winners in question. The Morning News said it was unable to reach any of the scholarship recipients and Givens did not respond to requests for comment.