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Vendetta: Bernie Sanders Brought the Power of the State on Vt. Business Owner Behind Attack Ad

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an early leader in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary (if the DNC doesn't disqualify him for being an Independent), stands accused of weaponizing his U.S. Senate office to persecute business owner Radolphe "Skip" Vallee after Vallee launched an attack ad in September 2014. A week later, Sanders' press aide Daniel McLean met with the Vermont Attorney General's office.

According to a court motion filed by Vallee last week, either Sanders or McLean suggested the AG bring a case against the business owner "just to make a point."

While Attorney General Bill Sorrell decided not to sue the business owner, Vallee presented documents showing that McLean corresponded with attorneys from two firms interested in bringing a class-action suit against him. In June 2015, the firms filed a $100 million class-action lawsuit against the business owner and three other companies, accusing them of price-fixing, Seven Days Vermont reported.

Vallee owns more than 45 gas stations in Vermont and neighboring states. He is a prominent Republican donor who served as ambassador to Slovakia under George W. Bush.

The price-fixing lawsuit is still ongoing. Vallee filed a subpoena to force McLean to testify in the discovery process, but Sanders' press aide filed a motion to quash this. The most recent motion — in which Vallee charged that Sanders used the power of his office to satisfy a vendetta against him — requested that the judge reject McLean's motion to quash the subpoena.

Sanders' office argued that Vallee's subpoena was a "fishing expedition."

"Far from being a 'fishing expedition', R.L. Vallee has demonstrated a sufficient need to discover the extent and motivation of Mr. McLean’s (and the Senator’s) repeated apparent efforts to bring price-fixing and other antitrust enforcement actions against R.L. Vallee over a period of years," the business owner countered.

"The Civil Action may well have been brought forward based upon political considerations, rather than actual evidence of an anti-competitive conspiracy. This would clearly tend to exculpate R.L. Vallee. While this animus and bias against R.L. Vallee is no secret, their extent can only be ascertained through discovery," he argued.

While it may seem odd for a senator to target a business owner over political animus, the gas station mogul's hard-hitting ad may provide an explanation. The September 2014 anti-Sanders television spot aimed right at the heart of the senator's appeal to voters in the 2016 Democratic primary.

The ad opens with Sanders's attacks on "the rich," specifically the senator's condemnation of "golden parachutes." Then the spot turns to his wife, Jane Sanders, who received a $200,000 golden parachute while leaving Burlington College after a notorious land deal that bankrupted the institution. (She will not face charges in the case.)