Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Inquiry into wife could cloud Sanders' political star

Sen. Bernie Sanders, seen with his wife Jane at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last July, could have his political star clouded by an investigation into her actions.

New York Times

Sen. Bernie Sanders, seen with his wife Jane at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last July, could have his political star clouded by an investigation into her actions.

WASHINGTON — A federal investigation into a long-ago land deal by Sen. Bernie Sanders' wife is threatening to take some of the luster off the senator's populist appeal, attaching the phrase "bank fraud" to the biography of a politician practically sainted on the left for his stands against "millionaires and billionaires."

Sanders, a Vermont independent, is still riding high on popularity from his presidential campaign, delivering rousing speeches to cheering progressives in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

But he has been shadowed by talk of a deepening investigation into his wife's role in a 2010 land deal for a Vermont college that ultimately contributed to her ouster as its president. His wife, Jane Sanders, has hired a lawyer to represent her as federal authorities look into a $10 million sale of about 33 acres of lakefront property by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to Burlington College. Jane Sanders was hoping to relocate and expand the institution.

The couple and many of their supporters maintain that the investigation is politically motivated and that it was set in motion by the Vermont state chairman for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Brady Toensing, who filed a complaint with the local U.S. attorney's office in January 2016 on behalf of the diocese's parishioners.

But the facts in the case do not fit well with Bernie Sanders' populist image. The charges revolve around a $6.5 million bank loan, that was obtained with a promise that college donors would quickly pay back at least $2.6 million of the debt. They did not, Jane Sanders was ousted, and the college went belly up.

Sanders fans and Democratic strategists agree that the investigation, no matter its outcome, could be used by operatives in both parties to undermine the senator.

"Just the fact that this is hanging over them could be used," said Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution, a liberal organization formed by several people close to Sanders. "I would hope that voters would dig deeper, but sometimes people don't. And they hear the word 'FBI' and it sends a shiver up and down people's spines."

Sanders remains one of the most popular political figures in the country. Even Democrats who might want to push him aside understand that tarnishing the integrity of one of their biggest draws could make it harder for liberals to win elections in 2018 and 2020.

Not everyone is so enamored with Sanders' continuing power. Stu Loeser, who owns a media strategy firm and was a longtime spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, said Sanders had missed his "once in a lifetime chance" to be president.

A federal law enforcement official, who declined to be identified because the matter was still under investigation, confirmed to the New York Times that authorities have been looking into the land deal.

To finance the land purchase, the college borrowed from a bank and obtained additional financing from the diocese, according to David V. Dunn, a Burlington College trustee at the time. The college needed to demonstrate that it had the financial resources to pay the bank loan, which it did with Jane Sanders' assurances that it would receive $2.6 million in donations and increase its enrollment, Dunn said.

"Neither of those were true," he said in an interview Monday.

Some of the pledges turned out to be overstated, and enrollment did not increase. Sanders was forced to resign in 2011. Financially strained, the college closed last year.

In his letter of complaint to the federal prosecutor, Toensing, who was then vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, said he was requesting "an investigation into what appears to be federal loan fraud involving the sale of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington headquarters."

"This apparent fraud resulted in as much as $2 million in losses to the Diocese and an unknown amount of loss to People's United Bank, a federally financed financial institution," the letter said.

Inquiry into wife could cloud Sanders' political star 07/15/17 [Last modified: Saturday, July 15, 2017 9:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.