DALLAS — New revelations Thursday further call into question the judgment of Dallas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson when it comes to awarding scholarships.
She says she never knew there was a rule against giving Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to family and friends, and she says she helps everyone who calls her for help.
But her opponent in the upcoming election asks: Is that really the case?
Johnson told News 8 there's a simple explanation why she doled out scholarships to relatives and children of a staff member ineligible for them under foundation rules. "I never saw any rules for the scholarships until this year," she said, "and they were always ambiguous."
The 18-year Democratic congresswoman says her conscience never bothered her. "I did not have an ethical alarm go off," she said. "I've acknowledged I made a mistake. I should have given it more attention; I did not, and that's why I paid every penny back."
Johnson said she paid back the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation about $31,000 from personal funds after The Dallas Morning News reported about the scholarships she steered to family and staff.
News 8 asked her why she didn't just give them her money instead. "They never asked me," she said. "They saw the kids getting scholarships and they applied. There was no rule at that time for them not to get any."
Johnson insists that she and her staff guide students to scholarship money when contacted. "And when I speak to them, I tell them, don't let it be money that keeps you from going. We'll find some way to assist," she said.
But her November opponent, Republican Stephen Broden, produced a 2007 letter from a Dallas man asking for Johnson's help finding financial aid for a student who lived in her district. Johnson wrote back for the girl to see her school financial advisor without mentioning the foundation scholarships — or any others, for that matter.
"I think that some people were hurt in this," Broden said. "First of all, the students who qualified for it who were in the district were hurt because they did not receive these funds."
Johnson said it is possible that that that was her reply. "It might be," she said. "I'm not even sure I've ever seen the letter."
Broden still has a steep uphill climb to unseat Johnson, who is in a very Democratic district. She beat her 2008 Republican opponentin 2008 with 82 percent of the vote.