CBC Scholarship Scandal Deepens

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Sanford Bishop photoA flurry of documents publicized this week appears to show further corruption within the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s scholarship program.

Letters written by CBC member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and released by her GOP election opponent this week suggest that the congresswoman was more intimately involved with steering $31,000 in CBC scholarships to family members and associates than she previously admitted. The two letters, sent by Rep. Johnson to the CBC Foundation, ask that the organization send the scholarship money directly to her two grandsons and two grand-nephews instead of to their colleges.

And records from the CBC Foundation revealed that another caucus member, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), in photo, also gave three scholarships to his stepdaughter and wife’s niece between 2003 and 2005.

The CBC’s anti-nepotism rule bars members from awarding scholarships to family members or the family members of their staff.

While Rep. Johnson previously said that she wasn’t closely involved with handling the scholarships, and that the responsibility belonged to her chief of staff, her letters appear to contradict that claim. The letters also clash with the congresswoman’s assertion that her family members were treated like all other scholarship applicants, and that the money went directly to the colleges to pay for tuition.

"Please accept the enclosed scholarship checks for Preston Moore and Gregory Moore. If possible I would like for their check s to be made out to them instead of the University…Thank you in advance for your cooperation," reads one letter, signed by Rep. Johnson and sent to the CBC. Preston and Gregory Moore are the congresswoman’s great-nephews.

In the second letter, Rep. Johnson asks that the scholarship check for one student be "re-issued to the correct university," but that the checks for her grandsons David and Dawrence Johnson be "issued to the student as opposed to the school." Both letters are undated, but time-stamped by a fax machine on Oct. 25, 2006.

In addition to violating anti-nepotism rules, Rep. Johnson’s grandsons and grand-nephews were also ineligible for the scholarships because they did not live in her district. The awards were only available to students who were represented by Rep. Johnson.

The two children of Rep. Johnson’s top aide, who received scholarships from the congresswoman as well, did not reside in her district either.

And fresh allegations that Rep. Bishop had also funneled CBC Foundation scholarship money to family members are also putting the foundation under additional scrutiny.

The congressman has maintained that the anti-nepotism rules were not established until after he had awarded scholarships to his stepdaughter and wife’s niece between 2003 and 2005.

"It is our understanding that the CBC Foundation in 2008 revisited the guidelines and processes for its scholarship programs, and as such, included language to clarify that CBC family members are not eligible to receive the scholarships," said a spokesman for Rep. Bishop in a statement released by his office.

The CBC Foundation is a non-profit affiliate of the Congressional Black Caucus. Each member of the CBC is allotted $10,000 a year to dispense in scholarships.

The new developments in the CBC scholarship controversy do not seem to bode well for the Congressional Black Caucus or for the Democratic Party. The allegations against Rep. Johnson and Rep. Bishop are just the latest in a recent spate of ethics charges against Congressional Black Caucus members.

One of these members is Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who is facing scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for allegedly helping to secure millions in federal bailout funds for a bank with ties to her husband. Another CBC member, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), has also been charged with tax evasion, improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment, and improper solicitation of donations by the House Ethics Committee. Both lawmakers have said they will fight the allegations in public ethics hearings, which are expected to take place during the midterm election season.

Related:

CBC Chair Payne Rips Johnson's ‘Unethical Behavior’ But What About His Own?

Rep. Johnson Gave 23 Scholarships to Relatives and Associates