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Texas Dem Caught Red-Handed
NRCC | September 8, 2010
Texas Dem Caught Red-Handed
Despite What She Says, Bernice Johnson Signed Letters Requesting Scholarships for Grandsons

SPIN CYCLE: Pelosi Once Promised to ‘Drain the Swamp’ and Sweep Corruption out of Washington

“‘Drain the swamp’ means to turn this Congress into the most honest and open Congress in history. That’s my pledge — that is what I intend to do,’ Pelosi stated in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams.” (Brian Williams, “Rep. Pelosi poised to make history”, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, 11/08/2006)

RINSE CYCLE: Texas Dems’ Name in Ink, Broke Rules and Signed Letters Asking for Scholarships

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.

Neither her aides nor the foundation responded to repeated requests to discuss the letters, which were obtained separately by The Dallas Morning News and by Johnson’s GOP challenger, Stephen Broden, who released them Tuesday.

But the letters suggest a far more direct role for the Dallas Democrat than she acknowledged in the last week after revelations by The News that she awarded at least 23 scholarships to her relatives and the children of a top staffer – in violation of the foundation’s nepotism and residency rules.

“There have been statements made by Congresswoman Johnson that she was oblivious to the process and that she was sort of detached from it and was not involved in the detail,” Broden said. “We see here that she was orchestrating how the checks should be made out.”

The letters are on Johnson’s U.S. House letterhead. They bear a fax stamp from her Dallas office and a signature that appears to match hers from previous correspondence unrelated to the scholarships.

Foundation rules

The 2008 directions that the foundation distributed for the program state that scholarships cannot be paid directly to individual students.

“All scholarship checks will be made payable to the institution of attendance. Scholarship checks will not be made payable to the student,” the instructions read.

Johnson wrote a similar letter on behalf of her grandsons, David and Dawrence “Kirk” Johnson of Austin. David Johnson graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos. His brother was enrolled as recently as earlier this year at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

Johnson’s relatives have declined to return repeated calls and e-mails from reporters to discuss the matter.

Both letters are undated, other than time stamps indicating they were faxed on Oct. 25, 2006, from Johnson’s congressional office in Dallas.

Officials at the House ethics committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics, which also looks into allegations of wrongdoing by U.S. House members, have declined to say whether Johnson’s actions will be investigated. (Todd Gillman and Christy Hoppe, “Letters bearing Eddie Bernice Johnson’s signature ask that scholarship money be sent directly to her grandsons,” Dallas Morning News, 9/08/2010)

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