USC $95K scholarship for LA mayor frontrunner Bass ‘critical’ to federal bribery case against former dean

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A federal case against a former dean of the University of Southern California involves a scholarship for Los Angeles mayoral front-runner and current House member Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., that prosecutors say was awarded in exchange for school funding.

Marilyn Flynn, ex-dean of USC’s social work program, is facing federal bribery and fraud charges in connection with a similar arrangement allegedly made with former Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and prosecutors want to use the Bass situation to bolster their case, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles told the Times.

Prosecutors are claiming that Flynn gave Bass a scholarship for a master’s program in 2011 so that she would help pass legislation to give greater federal funding for social work to private universities like USC The charges against Flynn are based on allegations that she got Ridley-Thomas’s son a scholarship in exchange for government contracts. An email from Flynn references a similar arrangement with Bass, prosecutors claim.


LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 27: Rep. Karen Bass, a candidate for Los Angeles mayor, gathers with various prominent supporters at Angel’s Point in Elysian Park to celebrate the campaigns momentum ahead of Junes primary election on Friday, May 27, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. 
((Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images))

While documents have the name redacted in many cases, the Times published the email that had not been redacted when it was first filed with the court.

“We will offer a full scholarship between the two schools. I did the same for Karen Bass – full scholarship for our funds,” the email, purportedly from Flynn, said.

Prosecutors believe the alleged arrangement is “critical” to their case against Flynn, the Times reported.

Bass insists that there was nothing wrong with her scholarship, which reportedly was for approximately $95,000.


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

Rep.  Karen Bass, D-Calif., has been brought up by prosecutors in connection with a case against a former USC dean.

Rep.  Karen Bass, D-Calif., has been brought up by prosecutors in connection with a case against a former USC dean.

In an interview with the newspaper last year, the congresswoman said she did not even apply to the program and that Flynn admitted the congresswoman upon learning that she wanted to earn her master’s. She said they notified the House Committee on Ethics of the scholarship offer and requested an exemption from the rule forbidding gifts. In her request, she reportedly said the degree would allow her to serve her constituents better because she would have better knowledge of child welfare policies.

Bass began taking classes in 2012 and graduated in 2015, but according to the Times, she did not report the full amount of the scholarship in disclosure forms until 2019., only to blame this on someone on her staff.


Prosecutors, describing what Flynn may have wanted in return, have pointed to legislation that “would provide more funding for the Social Work School by allowing private universities to receive matching grants for certain types of social work services.” The Times noted the resemblance to the Child Welfare Workforce Partnership Act, which Bass sponsored in 2014.

Fox News reached out to Bass’s office about this, but they did not immediately respond. She told the Times in a statement that she “did not author any legislation that benefited USC.”

Bass is running against Rick Caruso in the Los Angeles mayoral general election in November.