Democrat Dirty Laundry: Democrats Drowning in the Swamp They Promised to Drain

August 31, 2010

Democrats Drowning in the Swamp They Promised to Drain
Ethics Experts Blast Texas Dem as Even More Scholarships to Friends and Family are Discovered

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: Eddie Bernice Johnson Broke Rules by Handing Out 23 Scholarships to Friends and Family Members

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson awarded eight scholarships last year to her grandsons and a top aide’s children – bringing to 23 the number of awards she handed out since 2005 in violation of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation eligibility rules.

The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that over the last five years, the Dallas Democrat has awarded up to $20,000 in 15 scholarships to two grandsons, two great-nephews, and aide Rod Givens’ children between 2005 and 2008. The 2009 awards – reflected in a previously undisclosed list provided Monday by the foundation – push that above $25,000.

“While I am not ashamed of helping, I did not intentionally mean to violate any rules in the process,” Johnson said in a written statement issued Monday night, after two days of national scrutiny and sniping from critics, including her campaign opponent. “To rectify this matter immediately, I will reimburse the funds by the end of this week.”

She also pledged to change how she selects recipients for the scholarships.

Ethics experts called Johnson’s actions troubling and potentially problematic for her, given that the scholarships violated anti-nepotism rules and went to students who neither live nor study in her district or any other represented by a member of the black caucus, as required.

“That looks bad,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a watchdog group. “This is just wrong. A member shouldn’t do this.”

Jan Baran, a top Republican ethics lawyer in Washington whose clients have included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said the awards may amount to fraud, given that the applicants and those selecting the winners should have known about the eligibility rules.

“If you make factual misrepresentations to obtain money it’s usually a form of fraud, either civil or criminal, where you’re trying to take possession of money under false pretenses,” Baran said. “The question is, who committed the fraud.”

Baran added that he couldn’t think of any congressional ethics case that even remotely resembled these circumstances.

In 2009, Johnson picked 12 students to split $10,000 from two scholarship programs, according to foundation records released Monday. Eight students got one scholarship. The four other students – the congresswoman’s grandsons, Kirk and David Johnson, and her staffer’s son and daughter, Julian and Mariyah Givens – got two apiece.

Each individual scholarship was worth $625, so the relatives of Johnson and Givens each got $1,250. ( Todd Gillman, “Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson says she’ll repay scholarship funds by week’s end,” Dallas Morning News, 8/31/2010)

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