Eddie Bernice Johnson's Possible Defense: "Well, Every One Else Is Taking Money."

In the wake of Congressional candidate Stephen Broden's latest bombshell about incumbent Eddie Bernice Johnson's scholar-gyp scandal, we have to wonder about the whole Congress. Is Johnson's fiddling of some scholarship funds from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation merely symptomatic of a much broader and deeper running syndrome?

Over the weekend the Broden campaign produced letters from Johnson to the Congressional Black Caucus Scholarship Fund asking that scholarship awards to students who were not her relatives be given as checks to their schools but awards to the congresswoman's own relatives be given as checks written to the students themselves. Let's just get that money right in the pocket and not fiddle around with a lot of make-believe about what it represents.

So much for the congresswoman's repeated professions that she knew little about any of this and only accidentally favored her own family and members of the families of her staff. But also over the weekend, The New York Times carried a fascinating little story on the whole topic of charities and non-profits founded by or closely tied to members of the Congress.

The story included the fact that members of Congress passed a law exempting themselves from another older law that banned them from soliciting contributions for charities from corporations or other entities that have issues pending before those members in congress. Los Angeles Democratic congressman Joe Baca, for example, has a favorite charity called the Joe Baca Foundation. It hands out lots of scholarships too, along with other even more lucrative bennies.

"But unlike most private foundations," The Times reported, "Mr. Baca's gets little of its money from its founders' pockets. Instead, local companies and major corporations that have often turned to Mr. Baca's Washington office for help, and usually succeed in getting it, are the chief donors."

The story provided lots of equally unsavory examples of Republicans who work this same game (coughcoughJoeBartoncoughcough). It's pretty simple: "Got an issue coming up before me, Congressman Jim Schutze, next month? Please allow me to send you this lovely four-color brochure explaining the story and mission of the Jim Schutze Foundation."

This all begins to explain where some of the proprietary attitude toward the money might come from in the first place, doesn't it? Of course I'm going to give that scholarship money to my grandkids. I earned that money the old fashioned way. I sold my vote for it.

One possible future field of inquiry: The money stayed with the grandchildren and the staffers' kids, right? Right? Tell us that's right.

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