For weeks, Rep. Karen Bass has faced mounting questions about her free master’s degree in social work from USC while in Congress.
The Times reported last month that Bass received a scholarship to USC’s school of social work without directly applying and that the scholarship, valued at $95,000, embroiled her in a federal corruption case involving the former dean of the school, Marilyn Flynn.
Amid the controversy, Bass was pressed during a town hall debate last week by one of the moderators, Seth Lemon, who asked, “To be clear, have you officially applied – filed an application?”
“I applied for the program,” Bass said. The congresswoman then promised to publish her application for a master’s degree in social work from USC.
Bass’ campaign appeared to deliver on that promise this week, providing KNX Newsradio with what it claims is her USC candidacy, along with a resume and an essay.
But the documents released by Bass’s campaign are not actually an application for admission to USC’s Master of Social Work program, the Times has learned. The form is an application to attend “limited status” courses.
USC’s “Limited Status” program by definition allows individuals to take courses without being admitted to a degree program, and they cannot receive financial aid.
Bass’s application – which is not dated or signed – specifically states that she had not applied for the Master of Social Work program but was planning to do so at a later date, indicating that when she started her classes in 2012, she had no formal admission.
The document shows that when Bass was offered a full scholarship in 2011 by USC’s Dean of Social Work, it was before she was accepted into the Master of Social Work program, a sequence unusual occurrences that raises questions about preferential treatment for an elected official.
Bass spokeswoman Sarah Leonard Sheahan and other campaign officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment, including when the MP submitted the nomination. His campaign also failed to provide The Times with a copy of the app published by KNX Newsradio despite multiple requests.
His opponent in the mayoral race, Rick Caruso, repeatedly criticized Bass for accepting the scholarship and later proposed legislation that gave USC and other private universities broader eligibility for federal funding. , saying, “She got a free scholarship just because she was a powerful member of Congress.
In a statement this week, Caruso again called on Bass to disclose his emails and communications with Flynn, the former USC dean who pleaded guilty last month to a federal corruption charge involving one of the political allies. de Bass, Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“Voters deserve this information now, not in a few weeks when the election is over,” Caruso said in the statement.
In an interview last year, Bass said she originally applied for a master’s degree in public administration from USC, a degree offered by the university’s Price School of Public Policy, which is separate from the school. of social work.
Bass said she thought her status as a former USC employee made her eligible for free tuition, but when she found out she had to pay for the program, she didn’t pursue it. MPA diploma.
During that application process, she had contacted professors of social work for letters of recommendation, and word of Bass’s interest in a graduate degree reached Flynn.
Congressional records confirm that Flynn “approached [Bass] to participate in USC’s dual MPA/MSW program. The program was to be completed online, and Flynn offered Bass a full scholarship from his discretionary funds.
The scholarship was exceptionally generous: it was not advertised online to other students, it had no application process, it was not awarded annually, and, as Congress officials later noted, “the award is entirely discretionary on Dean Flynn’s part.”
House ethics officials determined that “the Dean’s Fellowship clearly falls within the definition of a gift” and that Bass’s status as a congressional legislator “was a factor in granting your USC scholarship”.
Nonetheless, Reps. Jo Bonner (R-Alabama) and Linda Sanchez (D-Whittier) wrote a letter approving a waiver of the “gift rule,” concluding it was an “unusual case” that would help Bass in his official duties.
Bass began studying in January 2012, taking one course per semester for the following year. She graduated in 2015 with a master’s degree in social work, not the dual degree program.
The full value of her scholarship was not disclosed in her congressional filings until 2019, when she added tens of thousands of dollars in previously unreported award-related funds to filings from previous years. Bass attributed the erroneous documents to a former staffer.
In an interview last year, Bass told The Times that the scholarship and education followed a career dedicated to child welfare and that as a newly elected member of Congress she wanted to focus on the Politics.
“I wanted the opportunity to go deeper and learn more about the structure of the child welfare system,” Bass said.
A reporter noted that Bass was in a very different financial situation than most social work students, with a congressional salary and rental property in Sacramento at the time, and asked if she got any fees. tuition that should have gone to another student.
Bass responded by repeating the question. “Do I feel like I took it from someone else? No,” she said.