U.S. Reps. Barton, Johnson make watchdog’s list of ‘Most Embarrassing Re-Elects’
U.S. Reps. Joe Barton (R-Arlington) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) figure prominently on a government watchdog’s list of “Most Embarrassing Re-Elects of 2010.” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) singled out Barton for his notorious apology to BP (among other things) and Johnson for nepotism and college scholarships.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) topped the list of 11 federal lawmakers and one governor, Barton was second and Johnson fifth. Texas and California were the only states on the list to be represented by a pair of lawmakers. (Read about Bachmann’s selection in our sister publication The Minnesota Independent.)
In addition to Barton’s June 2010 description of a government “shakedown” of BP while oil was still gushing from the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, CREW also highlighted a Dallas Morning News report showing that Barton had made nearly $100,000 in a natural gas deal involving a significant political donor, and while Barton was ranking Republican on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton later apologized for his apology to BP, but he defends the natural gas deal as a legitimate business transaction.
Barton is set to find out Tuesday whether he will secure a second stint as chair of the House Energy committee, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
CREW also skewered Barton for actions by his Joe Barton Family Foundation, which solicited donations from corporations for the local Boys and Girls Club in 2005 and 2006 — the problem, according to CREW, was that the foundation asked corporations to donate the money directly to the Boys and Girls Club in the foundation’s name, rather than accepting contributions and then passing them to the charity, thereby avoiding congressional lobbying disclosure requirements.
According to CREW, the Barton Foundation employed similar techniques in 2008 and 2009 regarding donations to Meals on Wheels.
Barton defeated Democratic challenger David Cozad by a margin of 66-31 percent in November.
Meanwhile, Johnson took flak from CREW for awarding dozens of Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships (collectively worth more than $31,000) to family members and a top staffer’s children — first reported by the Morning News.
Despite strict anti-nepotism rules by the CBCF, Johnson awarded scholarships to two grandsons, two great-nephews and children of a congressional aide over five years. After the details were made public, Johnson repaid the scholarship money.
The scholarship controversy goaded D Magazine to dub Johnson “the worst grandmother in America,” and prompted the Morning News to endorse Republican challenger pastor Stephen Broden over Johnson. However, the Morning News later withdrew its endorsement of Broden (who often makes inflammatory statements, including that abortion providers target African Americans) after the pastor said violent overthrow of the government is “on the table” if elections do not produce a change in leadership. (Note: The Morning News endorsed Barton for re-election.)
Johnson ended up winning reelection over Broden by a margin of 76-22 percent.
Barton and Johnson weren’t the only controversy-plagued Texas incumbents who coasted to victory: Other lawmakers who won despite being embroiled in ethics issues include state Rep. Joe Driver (R-Garland) — accused of ‘double-dipping’ for travel expenses from his official and campaign accounts; state Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) — who was driving a brand-new Mercedes owned by her husband’s employer, a TxDOT contractor; and state Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco) — who was slapped with federal liens for failing to pay $70,000 in back taxes.
Driver said he simply made a mistake. Harper-Brown returned the vehicle and said she didn’t do anything wrong. Anderson said he had been in a dispute with the IRS and had paid all the money.
Barton, Johnson, Driver and Harper-Brown are all legislators from the Dallas-Fort Worth region.