Is the fraud investigation involving Jane Sanders a politically motivated attack? It might be, but that doesn’t necessarily negate it either. But is it “incredibly sexist” to boot? The wife of Senator and erstwhile presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told the Boston Globe this weekend that the fraud accusation’s political motivation is also sexist because it operates under the assumption that she couldn’t have succeeded on her own.
Brady Toensing isn’t exactly a household name; he could well become one. He is a candidate for US attorney in the state, a perch from which he would oversee an ongoing federal investigation into Sanders’ wife — a crusade he started even before Sanders ran for president.
The story is convoluted, but one thing is clear: Jane Sanders has had enough of Toensing and his tactics.
“I find it incredibly sexist that basically he’s going after my husband by destroying my reputation, and that’s not OK,” she said in her first interview about the man responsible for an FBI probe that centers on her leadership at Burlington College, a small liberal arts school on Lake Champlain that she led from 2004 to 2011. The college closed last year as it struggled to pay its creditors and lost its accreditation. …
She said Toensing’s campaign against her is sexist because it assumes her husband somehow interceded on her behalf to secure the loan to buy the new campus — an accusation she insists has no merit.
No one has publicly suggested that, at least not in relation to the potential for fraud. At issue in the fraud investigation is a loan that Sanders secured while running Burlington in a land deal that went bad. Sanders allegedly got the loan on the basis of her representation that she had over $2 million in donations lined up for her vision of campus expansion, not on her relation to a US Senator. Only $125,000 got donated, and the school pushed Sanders out not long afterward. The land deal killed Burlington and left the bank holding the bag. The FBI reportedly opened a probe this spring after the Vermont blog VTDigger published e-mails related to the scandal, and the Washington Post reported last week that the probe had “accelerated in recent months.”
The issue here is the alleged misrepresentation, and whether that constitutes fraud, and not Sanders’ famous spouse’s role in getting her the job or the loan. That’s why the focus of the probe is on Jane Sanders and not Bernie — unless it has expanded in some fashion to include him. Rather than assume she did wrong because of who she married, the probe — again, at least according to what’s publicly known — assumes she herself was responsible for these decisions. It’s difficult to see what’s “incredibly sexist” about that.
Sanders has a better beef about the politically motivated exposure of the deal, but even that isn’t a winning argument for shutting it down before it runs its course. Toensing was a transparency activist and Vermont gadfly who tried pushing to expose the deal before Bernie ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he also became Team Trump’s campaign manager shortly afterward. One can see why the Sanderses would be sore about the FBI launching a probe based in part on his complaints, but that alone doesn’t mean the complaint doesn’t have merit either. The “sexist” accusation looks like an attempt to attack the FBI’s professionalism, which … is probably not a great strategy at this point for either or both of them.