“I did not have an ethical alarm go off.”
—Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, explaining (but not really) how she managed to give 23 of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships Johnson has awarded since 2005 to two grandsons from Austin, two great-nephews from Plano, and two children of her top aide, despite explicit rules prohibiting nepotism, and requiring the scholarship to go to needy recipients in her own district, which none of these recipients were.
But thanks for the plug, Congresswoman! (It is “ethics alarm,” however, not “ethical alarm.”)
Since Ethics Alarms first commented on this story, Rep. Johnson has been in full damage control mode, meaning that she has moved from outrageous lies (it wasn’t true…she didn’t know about the anti-nepotism rules…her grandchildren weren’t “immediate family”…there were no deserving recipients in Dallas…) to absurd and contradictory excuses. Though saying she accepts “full responsibility,” she has blamed the unethical awards on her chief-of staff, argued that she wouldn’t have done it if she knew it was illegal (Ethics? What is this “ethics” you speak of?), claimed that the rules were “ambiguous” (though this should not have mattered if she really never read them , as she claimed), blamed a fired worker for spilling the beans, suggested that her grandchildren “never saw the forms” that would have required them to certify that they were not related to Johnson, and claimed that the reporter who broke the story was out to get her.
Meanwhile, it seems increasingly clear that Johnson never made a good faith effort to let her constituents know of the availability of the scholarship funds so they could apply for them, all the better to make sure her relatives were the only ones “qualified.” It also is increasingly clear that the reason no “ethical alarm” went off for Rep. Johnson is that she doesn’t have any, at least in working order.
Gee…I wonder if Eugene Robinson would think Rep. Johnson’s constituents were just throwing a tantrum if they unseat her in November?