Last month Ed wrote about the investigation into possible financial mismanagement of a small, and now defunct, college in Vermont. Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders’ wife, took over the college with big plans for expanding the campus and bringing in more students. What actually happened is that Sanders got the college deeply in debt with some questionable financing and was kicked out of her job a short time later. A few years after her departure the school, heavily laden with debt and unable to attract students, closed its doors. The story was barely a blip last year during the campaign but today, Politico reports Sanders and his wife have lawyered up:
Sanders and his wife have been trying to ignore the federal investigation since reporters for VTDigger, an online publication, confirmed the FBI’s involvement in April…
Now, Senator Sanders and his wife are taking the case more seriously. Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ longtime top political adviser who heads Sanders’ political organization, Our Revolution, confirms to Politico Magazine that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up. The couple has retained Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders devotee, and Larry Robbins, the renowned Washington-based defense attorney who has represented I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and disgraced former Rep. Bill Jefferson, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter.
Now, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department is handling an investigation that will proceed at the discretion of a U.S. attorney of Vermont that Trump has yet to appoint.
Politico’s story goes into the detail of the sketchy transactions that are the focus of the investigation. Simply put, Jane Sanders wanted the school to expand and attract new students. She put together a deal to purchase some lakefront property at a cost of $10 million. However, that amount did not include the additional $6 million that would be needed to turn the property into usable classrooms and offices. It was never clear how a small school with about $4 million in annual revenue was going to be able to afford such a big purchase. In fact, it appears the claims Sanders made to secure the loans wildly overestimated how much the school could bring in:
The records showed that Sanders had assured People’s United Bank and the state bonding agency that the college had $2.6 million in pledges to secure the loan. Internal college audits showed that only $676,000 in actual donations came in from 2010 to 2014. Sanders listed two people as having confirmed pledges for more money than they had offered; neither knew their pledges had been used to support the loan. A third donor had offered a $1 million bequest, to be paid upon her death. Instead, the college’s loan application counted it in funds to be paid out over the next few years.
The donor, Corinne Bove Maietta, told VTDigger she had made the bequest contingent on her death, but was surprised the college counted the $1 million toward paying off the land loan. “They had me in increments?” Maietta asked, from her home in Florida. “No, never.” She and her accountant said Sanders asked Maietta to sign documents confirming the donations, but they declined. Maietta said investigators with the Federal Deposit Insurance Agency had interviewed her about the loan details. At the time, Sanders declined to comment.
Politico concludes that despite Bernie and Jane Sanders ability to avoid questions about the investigation, it only seems to be gaining steam. And the fact that President Trump will select the person who will lead the investigation could have an impact as well.