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    Karen Bass Got a USC Degree for Free. It’s Now Pulling Her Into a Federal Corruption Case

    By Matt Hamilton

    During the last decade, two influential Los Angeles politicians were awarded full-tuition scholarships valued at nearly $100,000 each from USC’s social work program.

    One of those scholarships led to the indictment of former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC’s social work program, Marilyn Flynn, on bribery and fraud charges.

    The other scholarship recipient, Rep. Karen Bass, is the leading contender to be L.A.’s next mayor.

    Federal prosecutors have made no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation.

    But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are “critical” to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.

    When jurors ultimately decide whether to convict Ridley-Thomas and Flynn, prosecutors have indicated they want Bass’ relationship with USC, the largest private employer in her congressional district, to inform their verdict.

    By awarding free tuition to Bass in 2011, Flynn hoped to obtain the congresswoman’s assistance in passing coveted legislation, prosecutors wrote in a July court filing. Bass later sponsored a bill in Congress that would have expanded USC’s and other private universities’ access to federal funding for social work — “just as defendant Flynn wanted,” the filing states.

    Flynn is charged for what prosecutors allege was a quid pro quo with Ridley-Thomas involving a scholarship awarded to his son in exchange for lucrative county contracts. To bolster their case, prosecutors have pointed to an email from Flynn in which she noted doing “the same” sort of scholarship-for-funding with Bass.

    Bass’ name is redacted in much of the court filings, which prosecutors said accorded with Department of Justice policy.The Times confirmed her identity through case records, people familiar with the matter and some copies of emails that were briefly filed in court this summer and later redacted.

    Federal prosecutors declined this week to elaborate on their statements about the scholarship. “At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” said Thom Mrozek, director of media relations for the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A.

    But with Flynn and Ridley-Thomas on trial in November, the circumstances of Bass’ free master’s degree could become an increasingly contested part of the case. In June, Flynn’s lawyers subpoenaed USC for correspondence pertaining to Bass’ scholarship and any honors or benefits given to the congresswoman, according to a copy of the subpoena filed last month.

    A court battle over the involvement of Bass’ scholarship could in turn offer grist for political attacks as she heads into the final weeks of her mayoral campaign against developer Rick Caruso.

    Through a spokesperson, Bass denied ever speaking with Flynn about federal funding for social work programs at private universities while the pair discussed her attendance at USC. Asked whether it was apparent that Flynn had a legislative agenda in offering the scholarship, Bass said, “No.”

    “Everybody knows that the welfare of children and families has been a passion and policy focus of mine for decades,” Bass said. “The only reason I studied nights and weekends for a master’s degree was to become a better advocate for children and families — period.”

    ‘Clearly’ a gift

    The Times revealed the Bass scholarship last year, noting that full-tuition awards like the one she received were not publicized, had no formal application process and were more generous than grants typically given to other students.

    In an interview last fall for that article, Bass said that she didn’t apply for the social work program; Flynn apparently made the decision to admit her after learning of her interest in getting a graduate degree.

    Before accepting the scholarship, Bass said, she wrote to the House Committee on Ethics in 2011, requesting an exemption on the rule prohibiting gifts to members of Congress. She told ethics officials the graduate degree would deepen her knowledge of child welfare policy and help her better represent constituents, according to congressional records.

    Click here to read the full article in the LA Times


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    8 COMMENTS

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    Guv. Hairdo
    Guv. Hairdo
    21 days ago

    LA has a chance to elect a real builder, a smart guy, instead they will probably elect this criminal fraud. SAD

    Goldberg
    19 days ago
    Reply to  Guv. Hairdo

    I keep wondering if she’s related to Lance Bass, I am a huge fan !

    Dr. Ozz
    Dr. Ozz
    18 days ago
    Reply to  Goldberg

    Guess you like the queers. Birds of a feather and all.

    @RealJesse
    @RealJesse
    18 days ago
    Reply to  Dr. Ozz

    Me too! I’m a bird of a feather!

    Goldberg
    18 days ago
    Reply to  Dr. Ozz

    I never said I was your fan !

    Dr. Ozz
    Dr. Ozz
    18 days ago
    Reply to  Goldberg

    And you never denied being queer. Speaks volumes.

    Goldberg
    17 days ago
    Reply to  Dr. Ozz

    May the spirit of Jesus be upon you.

    Dr. Ozz
    Dr. Ozz
    16 days ago
    Reply to  Goldberg

    And also upon your queerness.

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