In the aftermath of news that Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30th) distributed questionable Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to relatives, the foundation announced that it’s now going to audit its scholarship program. According to an article by Todd Gillman in the Dallas Morning News:
No other lawmakers have been accused of similar violations, but to expose the extent of irregularities, [New Jersey Democratic Congressman Donald] Payne ordered an “extensive audit” that includes a review of rules and how to tighten oversight of scholarship awards.
Lawmakers and foundation staff should “immediately review systems to ensure the highest degree of transparency, integrity and disclosure,” Payne said.
According to foundation rules, each member of the Congressional Black Caucus has $10,000 a year to divide among students from his district.
None of the people who received scholarships from Johnson were actually eligible, since they neither lived in nor attended college in a congressional district represented by a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Their close relationship with Johnson (two of them were her own grandsons) also should have made them ineligible.
Oddly, the scholarship audit might actually be very good PR for the Congressional Black Caucus because it will have the effect of highlighting major violations, not longstanding dubious practices.
Earlier this year, for instance, the New York Times revealed that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, despite taking in vast amounts of unregulated corporate cash, actually didn’t spend very much on scholarships at all.
In 2008, for instance, the foundation spent almost $700,000 on catering on a single night. That same year it gave out $600,000 in scholarships.