Courts & Corrections

Sanders dismisses Burlington College allegations as political

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders.

BURLINGTON — In a rare interview with local media, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., dismissed as politically motivated “nonsense” the notion that his office pressured a bank to approve a loan for a college operated by his wife.

Sanders was asked by WCAX on Friday about allegations from Vermont GOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing that Sanders’ Senate office pressured People’s United Bank to grant the $6.7 million loan Jane Sanders secured as Burlington College president.

The college used that loan to purchase a lakefront campus in 2010. Burlington College closed last year under the “crushing weight” of debt incurred in that land deal.

Toensing sent a letter to the U.S. attorney for Vermont and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. calling for a probe into whether Jane Sanders committed fraud by overstating pledged donations used to secure the loan. The Justice Department has been investigating the college, according to documents, donors and former employees.

Just after the school closed, Toensing sent a follow-up letter to the feds saying he was approached by someone who told him Sen. Sanders’ office “improperly pressured” People’s United Bank to approve the loan.

Toensing has not said publicly who approached him or how the alleged pressure was applied.

When WCAX asked about the allegation, Sen. Sanders responded, “This implication came from Donald Trump’s Vermont campaign manager. It’s from Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that because at this point it would be improper for me to say any more.”

Toensing was Trump’s Vermont campaign committee chair, not the president’s Vermont campaign manager.

Reminded that he’s previously referred to the allegation as nonsense, Sanders said, “Yes, it is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time — has gone after a number of Democrats and Progressives in the state — it would be improper at this point for me to add any more at this point.”

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, on the presidential campaign trail. File photo by Hilary Hess/Sanders campaign

In the footage WCAX aired, Sen. Sanders is not asked about the federal investigation that former Burlington College employees say is scrutinizing how his wife secured the loan.

Sen. Sanders and Jane Sanders ignored a reporter’s questions about Burlington College at last week’s Curtis Leadership Awards ceremony hosted by the Vermont Democratic Party.

During his speech at the awards dinner, the senator seemed to allude to the Burlington College investigation, again casting it as politically motivated.

He told the audience it is often a politician’s family who “bears the brunt” of politically motivated attacks that have become “so very common” in the current political climate.

Sanders then praised his wife for working diligently at his side throughout his career, drawing a loud ovation from the crowd.

Toensing issued a statement Monday deriding Sanders for dodging questions and noting that, according to former college employees, the Department of Justice investigation was initiated in February 2016, when President Barack Obama was still in office.

“The FBI has not disclosed what prompted its investigation, but it was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States attorney, all of whom are Democrats,” Toensing said.

Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager Jeff Weaver issued a statement to some media outlets through Revolution Messaging, which the firm said was on behalf of the Sanders family.

“In February of 2016, in the middle of Bernie’s presidential campaign, the vice-chair of the Vermont Republican Party asked for a federal investigation of Burlington College. Jane has not been contacted by the FBI or any other authority and only knows as much as news reports indicate. Jane served as president of the college from 2004 to 2011. In the five years following her departure, the college experienced major turnovers in leadership, staff and its Board of Trustees,” the statement reads, according to a Vermont Public Radio report. Revolution Messaging did not provide the statement to VTDigger.

Repeated requests to Jane Sanders for an interview regarding Burlington College have been ignored for more than a year and a half, beginning just before VTDigger reported that pledged donations were overstated in a loan document she signed.

If you read us, please support us.

Comment Policy requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer.

We moderate every comment. Please go to our FAQ for the full policy.

Morgan True

Recent Stories

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Sanders dismisses Burlington College allegations as political"
  • Gary Dickinson

    Not only Republicans think the Burlington College deal stinks, Bernie. A fish rots from the head.

  • Jamie Carter

    “…. politically motivated attacks that have become “so very
    common” in the current political climate.”

    And yet here we have Sanders deflecting a serious charge by pinning an investigation that started during the Obama Administration on Trump. Sanders, is and always has been, a YUGE hypocrit. But a smart one. Bernie realized early on that the young people were energetic and naive, so long as he could capitalize on that, he’d be okay politically.

  • Robert Lehmert

    “Just after the school closed, Toensing sent a follow-up letter to the feds saying he was approached by someone who told him Sen. Sanders’ office “improperly pressured” People’s United Bank to approve the loan.

    Toensing has not said publicly who approached him or how the alleged pressure was applied.”

    “Someone approached him” is the essence of hearsay, and he has presented no substantiation.

    I don’t think the investigation will take very long.

    • Steve Baker

      Sounds just like collusion, right Bernie? I heard the words come out of your mouth, “where there’s smoke there’s fire” seems to be an awful lot of smoke.

  • Larry Rudiger

    No, they’re not, Bernie. And I am, for one, tired of you dismissing legitimate questions about this affair. And I’m tired of your dismissive attitude toward the local press. You have time to dither over the meat counter at Hannaford, but you don’t have time to make yourself available to the local press? Something’s wrong.

  • Peter Everett

    Isn’t everything political now? Bet that the beloved Senator would be pushing for an investigation if it were some other person who had done something.
    Admit it, the system stinks and is rigged towards those in power. If this were Joe Schmoe being investigated it would be fine to do so. There definitely are different standards in this country. We know it, we allow it.
    Think about this…if you or I didn’t show up for work for a day or two, we would be fired. Yet, someone tramps all over the country for about a year, looking for another job, doesn’t do his, and collects his $175K salary, we allow it. To me, just conjours up the difference once between them and us. No matter how you look at it…it ain’t right. Yet, the Senator will say that I’m being political about him doing what he did. Maybe I am. I, do, know that I wouldn’t be allowed to do it in my job.

  • Peter Chick

    Trump’s family is bearing more brunt than any first family has. Bernie knows full well the FBI does not investigate for no reason. He just wants to appear the victim.

  • Jeane Wolfe

    Oh Bernie they say ignorance is bliss, I beg to differ.

  • John McClaughry

    Imagine this! Bernie Sanders declining to comment on dubious transactions involving his wife, because it would be “improper”.

    • Robert Lehmert

      Have you ever heard of “due process”? If (in fact) there is an investigation, and (if in fact) the investigators want to interview Senator Sanders, and they decide to take action based on the contents of the interview, that is when it becomes appropriate to offer comments (if the Senator so chooses).

      You play loose and slick with American traditions.

      • Jason Brisson

        “You play loose and slick with American traditions.”
        Sounds like the theme song to the last two years in American politics!

  • Steve Baker

    That’s really handy of Bernie, he gets to “decide” which FBI investigation is Political……
    I can still hear his self righteous indignation regarding James Comey and pryor investigations.
    Does anyone wonder why politicians are held in such low esteem ?

  • Jodi Harrington

    Funny how our dear left wing extremists so casually linked Hillary with everything Bill did to justify their wasted votes for Bernie and Jill Stein. And today the comrades are JUST SHOCKED when Jane and Bernie get linked!! Not sure we get to have it both ways. It might be time for some new blood in VT politics.

  • Chet Greenwood

    From the Washington Post May 17, 2016:

    “First, Bernie and Jane were insufficiently vetted by the mainstream media. Many reporters have passed on writing up opposition research hits about the Vermont senator, or focusing on the problems at the college, because they did not believe he ever had any realistic chance of being the nominee. The Clintons, owing to their status as the front-runners and former occupants of the White House, have continued to command a more intense level of scrutiny.”

    Maybe Bernie should ask Hillary if she influenced the FBI?

  • Elise Eaton

    I think the biggest news here is that Bernie finally stooped low enough to give a local media interview. Of course he says it’s political. I disagree. I think there is plenty more to be revealed on the BC fiasco.

  • Peter Everett

    Everything is so political now. If I used a public restroom, the first question asked would be “which one did I use?”. It really has gone way to far.