Jane O’Meara Sanders, wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has denounced a longstanding FBI investigation into her acts as president of Burlington College as “sexist.” But while the attorney who started the investigation — Brady Toensing — was a Trump campaign chairman, the Hillary Clinton campaign also focused on the FBI investigation as opposition research against Sanders.
“I find it incredibly sexist that basically he’s going after my husband by destroying my reputation, and that’s not OK,” Jane Sanders told The Boston Globe. She argued that Toenisng’s attack against her is sexist because it assumes her husband interceded on her behalf to secure a loan to buy the college a new campus.
The FBI investigation (which will appear before a federal grand jury) centers on a 2010 Sanders-led land purchase that relocated Burlington College, a small liberal arts school she led between 2004 and 2011, to a larger new campus. Sanders lined up a $6.7 million loan and additional financing, telling college trustees and lenders that the college had commitments for millions of dollars in donations. The college bought the land from the local Roman Catholic diocese.
Trustees said they later discovered that many of the donors had not agreed to the amounts or timelines Sanders listed, however.
This mismatch led to Sanders’ resignation in 2011 amid fraud complaints. The school defaulted on its loan in 2014 and closed last year as it struggled to pay creditors and lost its accreditation. Sanders was first connected to the scandal by a VT Digger story in 2014, which resulted from Toensing’s research on her, The Boston Globe reported.
While Toensing, who served as the Trump campaign’s Vermont chairman last year, may have launched the original story, the FBI investigation came later — and began under the Obama administration.
In January 2016, Toensing filed a complaint on behalf of a Roman Catholic parishioner in the Burlington diocese. The complaint alleged that the botched land deal cost the diocese a whopping $2 million in losses.
According to the complaint, Sanders obtained a $6.5 million loan from the People’s United Bank to buy tax-exempt bonds issued by a state agency, and a $3.65 million second mortgage from the diocese. Sanders reportedly told college trustees and bank lenders that the college had raised $2.4 million to repay the loan, but many of those donors had not agreed to the listed amounts, trustees later learned.
Toensing told Fox News that the public harm in this case is substantial, because the diocese offers a significant amount of help to the community’s poor and needy.
Sen. Sanders has alleged that Toensing was motivated to file his complaint because of his ties to Trump, but the lawyer shot down this attack. He did not become Vermont state chairman for the Trump campaign until the summer of 2016, well after the federal investigation of Jane Sanders began.
“This investigation was started under President Obama’s Justice Department,” Toensing told Fox. “The senator’s claims are a common, but lame diversion for politicians faced with a grand jury investigation. He should focus on answering the allegations, which are solidly based on analysis of facts from documents obtained through public records requests and evidence gathered by investigative reporters.”
“Ms. Sanders and her husband have built political careers pontificating against corporate corruption and claiming to want to help the needy,” Toensing continued. “The Diocese, however, actually helps the needy through vital services. The loss of $2 million as a result of Ms. Sanders’s apparent misconduct will materially detract from this charitable work and cause significant harm to vulnerable Vermonters.”
There is yet another wrinkle in Jane Sanders attacking the investigation as “sexist,” however. The Hillary Clinton campaign — that glass-ceiling shattering behemoth — prepared political attacks against Sanders, using the same material under FBI investigation.
In 2015, the Clinton team wrote an extensive political opposition memo entitled “Sanders Top Hits-Thematics.” The memo, released by WikiLeaks, detailed Mrs. Sanders’ role in the college’s financial struggles, and parallels the ongoing FBI investigation.
The “hits” piece included a passage directly on this issue, entitled, “O’Meara Sanders brokered a risky and potentially fraudulent purchase that nearly bankrupted the college.”
“After several years as the president of Burlington College, Jane O’Meara Sanders resigned amid speculation that she conflicted with the board and [didn’t] bring in enough money for the school,” the memo explained. “Critics later tied her to the school’s financial trouble after she brokered a deal to borrow $10 million to buy land for the college.”
“Members of the lending agency expressed concern over the college’s ability to repay the loan, and one suggested that if O’Meara Sanders was not involved, the loan would not have been approved.”
This attack did not come from Toensing or anyone else connected with the Donald Trump campaign, but from the bowels of the Hillary Clinton machine. If this investigation is “sexist,” the Clinton campaign is also “sexist,” along with the Obama Department of Justice.