Spokesman: No charges for Bernie Sanders’ wife in land deal
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Vermont have closed their investigation into a college land deal involving the wife of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and decided not to charge her, a spokesman for the couple said Tuesday.
Jane Sanders was informed by the U.S. attorney’s office that she would not be charged, Sanders spokesman Jeff Weaver said.
Jane Sanders is grateful the investigation is over.
“As she has said from the beginning, she has done nothing wrong and Jane is pleased that the matter has now come to a conclusion,” Weaver said in an email.
U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Kraig LaPorte said he could not deny or confirm that an investigation took place.
Federal investigators had been looking into the finances behind a real estate deal for the now defunct Burlington College, where Jane Sanders served as president from 2004 to 2011.
In 2010, she had worked out a $10 million deal for the college to buy 32 acres of waterfront land in Burlington on Lake Champlain and a 77,000-square-foot former orphanage and administrative offices of Vermont’s Roman Catholic Church, which needed the money to settle a series of priest sex abuse cases.
Jane Sanders, a longtime political adviser to her husband, promised at the time that the deal would be paid for with increases in enrollment and about $2.7 million in donations. She left the school a year later. The enrollment increase and the promised donations didn’t happen and by 2014, the college had about $11 million debt. It sold much of the waterfront land and closed in 2016, with officials citing debt from the land deal as a major reason.
Weaver has said the allegations were politically motivated attacks. The initial complaint was filed in early 2016 by attorney Brady Toensing, who served as the Vermont campaign chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential run.
Toensing sent a letter to federal authorities alleging that in 2010 Jane Sanders made fraudulent claims while seeking $10 million in financing for the real estate deal.
Toensing released a written statement Tuesday.
“It is a shame Burlington College Students, the Catholic Diocese, hard-working Vermont tradesmen, and others lost so much as a result of Ms. Sanders’s misconduct, but I am pleased that the matter was professionally investigated and assessed,” he wrote. “Criminal standards are extremely high, but now that the investigation is over, I look forward to a full explanation from Senator Sanders and his wife about the financial discrepancies in her loan application and the Senator’s involvement in procuring the loan.”
The conclusion of the investigation does not make a difference to Bernie Sanders’ political career, retired Middlebury College Political Science Professor Eric Davis said.
“He’s one of the most popular people in Vermont and the end of this investigation is certainly not going to change that,” he said.
Associated Press writer Wilson Ring contributed to this report.