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Texas lawmaker admits mistake in scholarship scandal

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Rep. Johnson responds to accusations
  • Scholarship rules prohibit relatives from receiving money
  • The money comes from donations to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
  • Relatives of Johnson and her aide receive more than $25,000 in scholarships, newspaper says

(CNN) -- A veteran House representative from Texas said she made a mistake when she awarded charitable scholarships to her family members instead of students in her district.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, has been under fire recently, accused of breaking rules in giving the scholarships to relatives.

"I've acknowledged that I was negligent. I've acknowledged that I made a mistake," Johnson said during an interview on CNN's "AC 360" on Thursday.

Johnson is accused of awarding scholarship money to her grandsons, David and Kirk Johnson, as well as the children of her Dallas district director, Rod Givens, last year. Each of the relatives were awarded two scholarships in the past year.

Johnson is a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and is a former board member of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which gives each member $10,000 every year to award as scholarships to students in his or her district.

The scholarship money comes from tax-deductible charitable donations.

The Dallas Morning News newspaper reported that Johnson has awarded more than $25,000 in scholarships to two grandsons, two great-nephews and Givens' children in the past five years.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's rules state eligible students must attend school in the district of the caucus member and not be related to anyone affiliated with the caucus.

Johnson said her grandchildren were not instructed to lie on scholarship forms and indicate on the forms that they were not related to Johnson.

"I have had no conversation about lying on anything," Johnson said. "I know that my grandkids didn't do this intentionally. I don't even know if they've seen the form because I hadn't seen the forms until this year."

In addition to violating the rule about nepotism, none of Johnson's nor Givens' relatives who received scholarships lived in Johnson's district, according to the newspaper.

Johnson said she was not aware of all the rules and said she was too busy with other activities to scrutinize the applications.

"I assure you that I have repaid all of the money. I'm not blaming anybody but myself. I'm taking full responsibility. And I'm going to move forward," Johnson said.