Eddie Johnson's actions are par for course in today's politics

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Eddie Bernice Johnson, a congresswoman out of Texas, has found her self in hot water after she admitted that she used her CBC scholarship money as a personal family college fund. Between the years 2005 and 2008, Johnson awarded between nine and 11 scholarships each year. On each occasion, three or four of the winners were either related to Johnson or her district director, Rod Givens. Rep. Johnson claims this was all done unintentionally.

This case concerned me, but while thinking it through, I had to go back to the fundamental question of whether or not this type of nepotism (assuming Johnson’s actions were deliberate) is detrimental enough to label her a poor politician or a bad human being.

Johnson is not a bad person or a crook, at least not based on this incident. She’s also not worthy of the same kind of congressional hoopla received by the Charlie Rangel or Maxine Waters investigations. Don’t get me wrong, when you break the rules, you certainly should be held accountable, and it appears that Congresswoman Johnson understands that. The latest reports say that she has begun working out a deal where she will repay the funds that were misallocated. Perhaps that should put the issue to rest.

But there is a deeper, more relevant question to be asked about the allegations against Eddie Johnson: Even if she broke the rules, is she clearly less ethical than other Washington politicians? I find it hard to believe that this makes her into the demon her enemies want us to think she is.

The truth is that politicians, business managers and regular citizens consistently engage in various forms of nepotism on a regular basis: Half of Barack Obama’s cabinet consists of buddies and friends from either The University of Chicago or Harvard. George Bush took care of every oil man in America. Most major universities are quick to give preference to the children of alumni over other candidates. This doesn’t make it right, but as one of my daughters might say, “It is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t.”

If we look inside our heart of hearts, most of us know that in nearly every family in America, those who have access to money and power are expected to use their power to help those they love. Of course, Johnson should be equitably punished for any violations for which she is found guilty. But it is my opinion that she is probably not guilty of doing anything that any of us has not done in our own lives at some point in the past.

Now let’s drop the issue, let her pay the money back, and hold her accountable on issues that matter to the American people. As far as I’m concerned, this is done.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the initiator of the National Conversation on Race. For more information, please visit BoyceWatkins.com>

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