September 11, 2010; Source: Associated Press | The implicit question in this article is, How stupid does Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop think we are? As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Bishop gets $10,000 from the CBC Foundation to give out as scholarships to constituents in his district. In 2003, Bishop adroitly gave scholarships to his stepdaughter, to his niece (also a scholarship beneficiary in 2005), and to a woman who became the wife of his district staff director.
Revelations of Bishop’s scholarship generosity follow news last week that Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson had given out over $30,000 in scholarships to her relatives as well as those of her top aides. Bishop’s defense isn’t particularly persuasive. He said the rules against giving to your family members were only clarified in 2006, and he made these scholarship decisions before that. That is one heck of a pathetic explanation.
You don’t need a rulebook to conclude that, as a public official, you don’t give scholarship money to your family members. This isn’t Bishop’s first run-in with over-the-edge self-interest. The Associated Press reports that last year, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation examined $200,000 in earmarks from Bishop to a nonprofit youth program, discovering that two of the Congressman’s relatives were being paid by the organization.
One of the relatives was Aayesha Owens Reese, Bishop’s scholarship-winning stepdaughter. The Congressman apparently thinks that, in this instance, the public might not immediately realize that his scholarship awards were wrong—with or without the CBC having a formal rule not to give charitable or public largesse to family members.—Rick Cohen