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Rep. Johnson (D-TX) Filters Money to Relatives Through Non-Profit

September 1, 2010

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, supported by private and corporate donations, provides $10,000 annually for each member of the Congressional Black Caucus to award in scholarships. Each member gets to decide how many ways to split the money and whether to create a judging panel, choose personally or delegate the task.

Rep. Johnson awarded thousands of dollars in college scholarships to four relatives and a top aide’s two children since 2005. The Foundation has anti-nepotism rules, and even if it didn’t, Johnson’s using non-profit scholarship money as a personal gift fund to reward staffers and enrich relatives is obviously a conflict of interest.

Caught red-handed, Johnson did the usual: she lied.

  • First she denied any “favoritism,” meaning that she expects intelligent, or even semi-intelligent, people to believe that she just happened to choose friends and relatives for the scholarships without their connection to her, blood or otherwise, figuring in her decision.
  • Then her office released a statement that, well, yes, she acknowledged violating the rules but  had done so “unknowingly.”  “Unknowingly” can only mean that she didn’t know that Foundation’s rules prohibited members from giving Foundation money to their relatives, didn’t realize that nepotism is unfair, and didn’t realize that when it came to awarding scholarships on merit, being related to the Congresswoman or having a parent that works for her isn’t merit enough.
  • Her excuse also requires us to believe that though she has served on the Foundation’s board, she was unaware of the rule that required all scholarship recipients to live in the Congressional District of the member giving out the cash. None of Johnson’s relatives or staff offspring qualified under this criteria, either.

Rep. Johnson’s biased awards also required the recipients to participate in the cover-up: they had to certify that they weren’t related to anyone connected to the Caucus or its foundation. Johnson claims that this is all new to her.

She awarded nine to eleven scholarships a year from 2005 to 2008, the most recent years for which information was available. In each of those four years, three or four winners were related to her or her district director, Rod Givens. Scholarships have gone to two of the congresswoman’s grandsons, Kirk and David Johnson; to two of her great-nephews, Gregory and Preston Moore; and to Givens’ son and daughter. (“None of these people are my immediate family,” said the Congresswoman. “Immediate family doesn’t include grandchildren.”)

“I recognized the names when I saw them,” she said.  (That’s encouraging—she knows her relatives’ names!) “And I knew that they had a need just like any other kid that would apply for one.”  (And of course, her assessment of their worthiness was in no way affected by the fact that she had to see their parents every day, or would be having Christmas dinner with them.) She explained further that the lack of other “very worthy applicants in my district” drove her decision, and had there been any, “then I probably wouldn’t have given it” to the relatives. Amazing—the middle of a recession, and yet there are no scholarship-worthy applicants in Johnson’s District.

What a great theory—illicitly channeling money for scholarships away from deserving recipients into the hands of non-qualifying family members is an innocent mistake, because she didn’t give the money to herself!

Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, who essentially looks at the transaction as a money laundering scheme to use donations to a non-profit to fund private interests of educating family members while getting a tax deduction for the money.

Congressional Black Caucus has other corrupt members as well Rep. Rangel and Rep. Waters, are about to stand trial for ethics violations, Several others are under investigation, and the Caucus had the recent indignity of seeing another member, William Jefferson, be sent to jail for bribery.

Story

http://www.ethicsalarms.com

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