WASHINGTON — Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson awarded eight scholarships last year to her grandsons and a top aide’s children — bringing to 23 the number of scholarships she handed out since 2005 in violation of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation eligibility rules.
A previously undisclosed list, provided Monday afternoon by the foundation, shows that Johnson’s grandsons Kirk and David Johnson, along with the children of her district director in Dallas, Rod Givens, each received two scholarships last year, under two competitions run by the foundation.
Together, the Johnsons and Givenses accounted for half the 16 scholarships the longtime Dallas Democratic lawmaker handed out in 2009 with foundation funds.
None of the other eight recipients got more than one scholarship.
In a statement issued Monday night, Johnson promised to provide reimbursement for the scholarship funds by the end of this week.
"I was unaware of being in any type of violation and never intentionally violated the CBCF's rules," Johnson said in her statement.
The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday that over the last five years, Johnson has awarded up to $20,000 in scholarships to two grandsons, two great-nephews, and Givens' children between 2005 and 2008.
The students should have been ineligible under anti-nepotism rules in the scholarship program, foundation officials said. They also would not have qualified because recipients are supposed to live or study in congressional districts represented by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The disclosure of the 2009 awards is sure to intensify the focus on Johnson's handling of the scholarship funds. Already, her election opponent is accusing her of "corruption" over the issues.
"Eighteen years in office breeds corruption," Stephen Broden, a Republican pastor who is challenging the nine-term Dallas Democrat, said Monday on WBAP's Mark Davis Show. "We need to really have a change that emphasizes the needs of the district over self-interest and self-aggrandizement."
Johnson has acknowledged violating the scholarship rules but said she did so unknowingly. And the congresswoman plans to repay the funds “by the end of this week,” Johnson spokeswoman Dena Craig said Monday night.
The foundation's general counsel, Amy Goldson, said the group is reviewing its records to determine the precise amount at issue.
As for Broden, he touts tea party credentials and concedes that conventional wisdom makes him a long shot. Johnson has easily defeated Republicans for years in that district, the only one in North Texas dominated by Democrats. Its population is predominantly minority, and Johnson controlled the drawing of its initial contours as a state senator two decades ago.
The incumbent, 74, has raised $450,000 this election cycle and has about $260,000 in the bank. Broden has raised half as much and has about $44,000 on hand.
But he said the scholarship issue could provide a wedge to get more attention.
"There are far too many people inside the district who are in need of that kind of support," he said on WBAP. "When you have that kind of resource available to you as a congressperson you want to make sure that those kids who are in need receive the kind of support that would facility them having access to a quality education."
WFAA contributed to this report.