Sep 10, 2010

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. Associated Press
 
 

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) awarded three scholarships from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to his stepdaughter and wife's niece between 2003 and 2005, according to records from the nonprofit group.

Bishop is the second Democrat found to have funneled CBC Foundation scholarship funds to relatives, threatening to turn the program into a larger political problem for the party. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) recently paid back $31,000 to the foundation for scholarships that she improperly awarded to various relatives and children of a top staffer.

Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), chairman of the CBC Foundation, has promised an "extensive audit of the scholarship program" run by the organization.

Bishop, though, also appears to have favored family members with CBC scholarships.

In 2003, Emmaundia Whitaker, the niece of Vivian Creighton Bishop, who is Bishop's wife, was awarded an education scholarship. She was also given a similar award in 2005.

And in 2003, Aayesha Owens Reese, the congressman's stepdaughter, was granted an education scholarship as well.

The congressman's wife is a longtime state employee in Georgia. She currently serves as clerk of the municipal court in Columbus, Ga.

A Bishop spokesman insisted the Georgia Democrat did not violate CBC Foundation rules that were in place at that time by awarding scholarships to family members.

"It is our understanding that the CBC Foundation in 2008 revisited the guidelines and processes for its scholarship programs, and as such, included language to clarify that CBC family members are not eligible to receive the scholarships," said Ashton McRae, Bishop's spokesman, in a statement released by the office. "These scholarships … were awarded prior to 2008."

Muriel Cooper, a spokeswoman for the CBC Foundation, said the organization "has and will continue to revisit guidelines and processes for its scholarship programs and, as such, has included language to clarify qualifications."

Since 2008, scholarship applicants have been required to formally certify "that they are not a family member of any member of [the] CBC, CBCF staff or its Board of Directors, corporate advisory board or any CBCF sponsoring entity," Cooper added.

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