Texas Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said she has repaid approximately $31,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) after acknowledging that she had violated the group’s rules by giving awards to four of her relatives and a staff member’s two children, The Associated Press reported. “Much of my district office casework benefits people outside my constituency. While I am not ashamed of helping, I did not intentionally mean to violate any rules in the process—CBCF Scholarship rules in particular,” the nine-term Democrat said in a statement.

Johnson provided 23 scholarships totaling $25,000 to two of her grandsons, two of her great nephews and to an aide’s children. The organization claimed Johnson’s actions violated rules against nepotism and granting awards to students residing or attending schools outside her district. The {Dallas Morning News} originally reported the episode on Aug. 30.

“There will be no self-dealing or nepotism in the awarding of college scholarships,” Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-N.J.), chairman of the foundation said in a statement. Payne added that the group recently started an audit of its scholarship program which awarded $716,000 in scholarships to 556 students in 2009. The CBCF provides $10,000 a year for scholarships awarded by the 43 members of the CBC. The money comes from corporate donations.

While Johnson claimed she unknowingly broke the rules,
Amy Goldson, the foundation’s attorney, said students receiving the awards, the lawmaker granting the awards or the lawmaker’s designee must confirm they are not related to the lawmaker.