By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
This weekend Jasper Craven reported that a federal grand jury took testimony in October as part of a Justice Department investigation into a shady land deal she architected that ultimately killed Burlington College.
As Digger previously reported, the FBI and the assistant U.S. attorney for Vermont (who leads the criminal division), are “probing aspects” of the the case as it relates to the former President of the now defunct school. Craven’s report confirms that the case isn’t going away any time soon.
As we’ve previously conceded, it remains unclear if Sanders killed Burlington College through innocent incompetence or something more nefarious.
It’s a question once articulately posed by Carol Moore, in a letter “What Really Happened at Burlington College,” to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The former Lyndon State College President had the misfortune of trying to rectify Sanders’ devastating malfeasance. Though she fell short, she got to appreciate just how insidious was Jane Sanders’ role.
President Moore wondered:
So, what really happened? BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10 million piece of property for campus expansion. Enrollment that year was about 195 and the budget just over $4 million, less than half of this ill-advised investment. What were they thinking? Where was the Finance Committee when these decisions were being made?
More interestingly, what bank lends a small, private, unendowed college of that size and financial status an amount that so obviously outweighs its ability to repay? People’s United Bank of Vermont. And the collateral? One planned gift of a revocable trust, payable upon the death of the donor, and the “promise” of another million-dollar gift. But, alas, no written record of such a “promise” could be found, anywhere in Burlington College’s records.
Who is to blame for this appallingly inappropriate business deal? Perhaps a board that steered clear of the tough questions which needed to be asked. Or a bank in the state of an influential senator — a senator, as it turned out, with bigger ambitions?
Those are the questions likely still bothering the feds. They were also enough, apparently, to make the Mrs. nervous enough to hire boutique law firms in both Washington, D.C. and Vermont.
She can certainly afford it.
Recall that she blew away with a quarter-million dollar golden parachute for running Burlington College into the ground. Then she and her husband purchased a third home for $600K on Lake Champlain. And Bernie must have made bank on his book tour… why else would he have blown off the St. Johnsbury Academy graduation last Spring, for the self-promotional European jaunt, after promising to attend?
Not to mention his new “Revolution” which is enriching even more members of the Sanders clan.
We wrote about the “Revolution” last year before it became televised. Specifically massive numbers of conscientious staff defections.
As Seven Days reported last year “at least eight employees quit ‘Our Revolution’… after Sanders’ former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, was brought in to serve as the group’s president. They complained that Weaver planned to raise money from wealthy donors and spend it on television advertisements, rather than organize a grassroots political movement.”
Affirmed Claire Sandberg, the former organizing director of “Our Revolution,” – “Jeff would like to take big money from rich people including billionaires and spend it on ads… That’s the opposite of what this campaign and this movement are supposed to be about and after being very firm and raising alarm the staff felt that we had no choice but to quit.”
Raise money from wealthy donors and spend it on television advertisements? Where have we heard that before?
In 2016 Craven wrote a terrific report on Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign and the $80+ million the “socialist” spent on ad buys during his failed bid for the Democratic nomination.
Little is known about the mysterious, brand-new media-buying company that spent the lion’s share of that money. What we do now know, thanks to Craven’s reporting, is that “Old Towne Media, LLC” likely clawed over $10 million in commissions for placing Sanders’ campaign ads. We also know the ad agency came out of nowhere in 2014, moments before Sanders announced his candidacy. We know that Sanders seems to be Old Towne’s only client. And we know something else, per Craven:
Old Towne Media has another connection to Sanders: The two principal buyers for the company worked in the past with his wife, Jane. Jane Sanders, Shelli Hutton-Hartig and Barbara Abar Bougie were media buyers during Bernie Sanders’ 2006 Senate race.
That’s very interesting. Because in 2006, Senate Candidate Rich Tarrant “suggested Sanders’ wife improperly profited from campaign ad buys.” That was also just a few years before the Mrs. took the obscene golden parachute from Burlington College for running the place straight into the ground.
At the time of his report, Mrs. Sanders hung up the phone on Jasper when he asked her about “Old Towne.” She also refused to respond to endless VTDigger inquiries on the Burlington College debacle.
Maybe all these shenanigans help to explain why Sanders refused to honor a pledge he made on the campaign trail to release details of his personal finances?
After all, Sanders entire “career” and presidential campaign were built on bashing “greedy” rich people and railing against money in politics. Now he and the Mrs. spend their time on dark-money organizations soliciting obscene amounts of dough… from unidentified greedy rich people… to inject into politics… creating a fortune in media-buy commissions. That last part also, coincidentally, is smack dab in the middle of Jane’s wheelhouse.
If that’s not a sellout, we don’t what is.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.