June 23, 2017

Jane Sanders under investigation (with grand jury news)

Jane Sanders, via Burlington College
The wife of former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Jane Sanders, IS part of an FBI investigation into financial matters at non-defunct Burlington College, detailed at VTDigger.

New update, Jan. 7, 2018: A grand jury has been empaneled in the case. That means the shit of indictments could be hitting the fan in just a few months. 

Reading through the story, and with the idea that GJs are often empaneled on a quarterly basis, I'm guessing this one started in October, and was renewed at the start of this year. So, end of March or start of April, we may hear something public. I highly doubt it would go longer than that. 

Also interesting is that the person interviewed for the story was before the GJ in October. Lips are being kept sealed on this, it would appear.

Update, May 15, 2018: No indictments yet. No dismissal of charges yet, either. A day after that previous update, the feds talked to Tony Pomerleau, described by Seven Days in Vermont as a Burlington real estate mogul. The piece offers a few other tidbits on updates, namely that two former college board members talked to the feds. Pomerleau was Jane Sanders' advisor on the land swap at the heart of the issue.

And, weirdly, old Bernie spox Jeff Weaver came out to deny even the existence of a grand jury. That's despite former college board trustee Robin Lloyd explicitly stating she talked to one. And it's connected with Bernie refusing to talk to Seven Days in a sit-down interview unless Jane and Burlington College are off the menu.

Meanwhile, a Sanders dynasty of sorts is in the works? His son is running for Congress (and trying to stand halfway between his dad and Trump on some issus) and his stepdaughter lost a race for Burlington mayor. (She was running against the incumbent.) Plus, his stepson was made creative director of the Sanders Institute. (Jane, per that piece, apparently tries to dodge Vermont-local media as much as Bernie.)

Update, June 23, 2017: Bernie and Jane have lawyered up, over questions about allegedly improper loans. Part of the allegations? Bernie's Senate staff pushed for shaky loans to be made to Jane for her Burlington expansion dream.

That said, per the story, if one-quarter is true, it mirrors Bernie's own transition from some sort of actual semi-Socialist to "he's really a Dem" in all but name Democratic Party hack.

Also look at the bottom of the piece. Harry Jaffe first covered Bernie in the 1970s. This isn't a fly-by-night journalist, or piece. Jaffe even wrote an unauthorized bio of Bernie.

Per Jaffe's bio, he's also not an ax-grinding wingnut. He was Pat Leahy's press secretary for a couple of years, after all. One might partially hold working with Michelle Rhee against him. That makes him more neoliberal than Bernie. Not the devil.

And, if you want to decide for yourself on bias or not, here's the Google book preview version of the book. If anything else, it seems to have a mix of animus for Bernie's bluntness with at least as much hagiography. That said, he's spot on with the Bernie "brand."

Also contradicting Actual Flatticus in other ways? The FDIC as well as the FBI are investigating, per VT Digger. It in turn notes that Seven Days in Vermont had written about some of the investigation.

No real surprise to me. Sorry, Berners, Berners thinking about becoming Greens, etc.

I had speculated on these pages more than once last year if Jane, when president of the college, was trading on Bernie's name when trying to raise a big loan for glorious dreams of the college's future. And, given it closed suddenly last May, Bernie's lucky he wasn't nominated; media might have started nosing around this issue more at that time.

It is interesting that the investigation, per Burlington's board president, appears to have started before the college's official announcement of closure. Bradley Toensing's records request must have been treated fairly seriously from near the start — which could bring in a Barack Obama angle and/or a Hillary Clinton one, as well as the GOP one driven by Toensing — getcha popcorn, round two!

To both Berniecrats and Never Trumpers of any stripe who see the name "Bradley Toensing" and say, well, Trump must be behind this? The Obama era DA for Vermont opened the investigation. The U.S. District Attorney's office for the District of Vermont didn't have to investigate anything. Just because, per Alan Simpson and Anita Hill, someone throws something over  transom doesn't make the DA forced to investigate it. Only if the DA's office deems it's a legit complaint or issue does that happen.

And, Actual Flatticus knows how DAs operate, too.

Beyond that, VT Digger notes the FBI subpoenaed related records in 2016. Remind me again, Flatticus and others, who was president then? There's also a timeline issue involved. VT Digger notes it first reported the donations issue in January 2016, and only then did Toensing make his investigation request. Click that link for other timeline issues, including how much investigatory work was being done before Jan. 20, 2017. Or, per this story, note that Burlington board of trustees members apparently knew an investigation was ongoing as of May 2016.

Is it true that Trumpers are distorting the issues? Like alleged actor James Woods claiming flat-out that Bernie himself committed bank fraud?

But of course.

And Trumpers also distorted Hillary Clinton email issues. So?

Update, July 6: Toensing says he was told a tip by a New Hampshire state senator, who in turn says he never would have told the feds. And why not? State Sen. Don Turner, a Republican, called it "hearsay" not worth passing on in that way. That said, this talk was after Toensing filed his first complaint in January 2016; it was behind his May 2016 complaint.

Now if, per that timeline, one wants to claim that someone in the FBI, or the Vermont US District Attorney's office, was a Hillbot doing HER bidding, bring it on. But, per what I said, no, there's no Trump Train conspiracy here.

Update, Nov. 29: VT Digger notes, in a late summer move-the-ball piece, that while both Jane and Bernie claim this is a Toensing hack job, the paper itself has been investigating the college's finances since 2011! Sorry, legend of Flatty, and sorry, any others who may excoriate Bernie as a sheepdog but don't look behind the curtain enough. And, sorry Jane, but, calling Toensing's claim in that latest piece "sexist" comes off like playing the Hillary Clinton card. VT Digger had another update at the same time in August, about Jane's influence peddling ties with a Burlington real estate magnate. Payback included giving said magnate Tony Pomerleau and his wife honorary degrees from the college. Meanwhile, a reader of the other alt-weekly type of paper in Vermont, Seven Days, says he thinks Jane is deserving of the focus and also resented Bernie's spokesperson Jeff Weaver politicizing it. (Scroll down to last letter on webpage.)

Also per these pages in the past, I've suspected Jane was a fair part of the impetus behind Bernie's run, and in addition to his own political animalism, may have been part of the impetus behind his political shifts from the 1980s to today.

Politics is blood sport, per James Stewart. Bernie's deal-cutting with the Vermont Democratic Party in the past shows he knows this well.

That said, do I think she did anything illegal? Very likely not.

Something unethical, whether by official college ethics standards or everyday ones? Possibly.

Something fiscally dumb, and that she knew it at the time? Yes.


Update, June 14: Maybe not "fiscally dumb" after all.

Independent news site VT Digger has a whole nother story about Jane Sanders and her time at Burlington.

Here’s a sample of the mixtape:
While one deal struck by Jane O’Meara Sanders during her time as Burlington College’s president has triggered a federal investigation, another arrangement she engineered is breeding claims of nepotism and allegations of veiled threats against her husband’s presidential campaign. 
The bad blood centers on the relationship the college forged with the Vermont Woodworking School, co-founded and run by Sanders’ daughter, Carina Driscoll. 
Carol Moore, the final president at Burlington College, broadly blames the school’s 2016 closing on Sanders. In a scathing op-ed last year, Moore wrote: “BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president.” ... 
Moore is equally critical of a deal Jane Sanders brokered between the college and Driscoll’s Vermont Woodworking School, a facility in Franklin County where Burlington College students took courses. 
In interviews with VTDigger, Moore said the college got the short end of the stick.
“This was a sweetheart deal for Carina Driscoll, Jane Sanders’ daughter,” said Moore. Driscoll is the stepdaughter of Bernie Sanders. ...
Moore alleges the woodworking school was “gouging the college.” She praised the academic merits of the program but said it was “barely” profitable. 
Students began attending the woodworking school in 2009 on what appears to have been a handshake deal. A formalized contract was made only under Jane Sanders’ successor as president, Christine Plunkett.
That's plenty enough for teaser, and all I can post under good fair use standards.

I lied. One more extract:
The Burlington College-Vermont Woodworking School connection is not the first time Sanders and her daughter have been accused of nepotism. 
Sanders & Driscoll LLC — a mother-daughter limited liability corporation — offered political consulting for Bernie Sanders’ 2002 and 2004 House races, and Jane Sanders drew more than $90,000 from the campaigns. The practice was allowed but frowned upon because of the opportunity to benefit from campaign donations.
It’s true that Bernie was one of 32 Members of Congress to do this in 2012.

Still, that’s little more than 5 percent of the membership, and is another black eye for Sanders’ fiscal honesty reputation.

Based on this story, I think I have a lot more confirmation about my theory of a full year ago and more than Jane was the one pushing Bernie's campaign. That said, Driscoll claims that Moore had it out for her and used the publicity about Bernie's prez run to try to browbeat her. She also claims she admitted the deal was unfair. But, apparently, never actually offered to redo it, which leads back to her mom.

Jane's reward? Running the Sanders Institute, with its hacktacular fellows such as Robert Reich, Ben Jealous and Cornel West. (Greens, stop fetishizing the man.) And, there's also Islamophobic fascist fellow traveler Tulsi Gabbard.

With all that in mind, it's no wonder Bernie won't talk to Vermont media. And, it's not just in Vermont; he and his staffers won't talk to Vermont media from their Capitol Hill perches in DC, either.


Sidebars — First Too many Greenies are too polite, or something, if they think discussion of this is a "smear" of Jane Sanders. It's not. Per Jaffe, bank fraud is hard to prove, but, it does happen. And, per Jaffe, even if the fraud can't be proven, the influence trading is a mile wide.

Otherwise, on the "Minnesota Nice" or whatever? Dear Leader wasn't the only person wrong to sing Kumbaya.

And, the half-siblings of AccommoGreens, those folks known as GreenieCrats, still don't want to believe their beloved Bernie is in trouble, let alone that Jane was trading on his name.

As for Greens who think it's irrelevant to the Green Party? Erm, wrong! Some Berniecrats, ignoring that the Green Party, and the Socialist Party USA, and others, exist, want him — or at least key loyalists — to start a third party.

Second — Quasi-Berniecrats (I'm thinking of one Twitter presence in particular) don't want to face the light. No, Bernie may not have committed bank fraud in the legal sense because, yes, it's damned hard to prove. At the same time, he may well have pressured a bank, with Jane already trading on his name in a small state. That's the ethical equivalent of bank fraud.

This is the same Bernie who lusts for F-35s, who threatened to have pro-Palestinian visitors to his office arrested as part of his blank check for Israel and more.

And, that one Twitter nitpicker? The Actual Flatticus who I've touted before? Claims this is a nothingburger. Claims that the fact Jane Sanders has him blocked on Twitter is proof that it's a nothingburger to him.

Seems to want to have the last works a lot for calling it a "nothingburger." He's also gotten the "framing" wrong vis-a-vis Tensing and the Obama-adminstration DA for Vermont, NOT Trump's, opening the investigation. And, he protests when other people in a threat post links to the likes of VT Digger. I posted one myself from there about Bernie yelling at staffers as proof that Jaffe's not the only person to say this.

He's been wrong a couple other times, on other issues. It's not a double Whopper to me; it's a regular-sized hamburger, though. Actually, no, it IS a double Whopper, in reflecting back on something from a couple of weeks ago. In claiming Amy Goodman once made $1 million a year, he cited from a website that touts chemtrails, 9/11 trutherism and other conspiracy theories, along with claiming the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are real. Also, the person who wrote the particular article he linked had sued WBAI and thus had a definite bias. Either Smithee didn't know that (I didn't have a chance to tell him before he blocked me) and so, again, his information isn't always correct, or he did know it and posted anyway.

Oh, and he was wrong as hell about Presidents allegedly not being subject to the Emoluments Clause.

Anyway, I don't need this to turn into a blog post about him.

What is at least a single Whopper, having now received it myself, is the amount of vitriol in which he engages, not so much with bigwig media professionals as with everyday John and Jane Does. And, I'll offer a bit of apology for a couple of cases in which I needlessly piled on.

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