Bernie Sanders was right when he called an investigation into allegations of fraud by his wife politically motivated, but the Republican lawyer driving the probe said it’s about increasing transparency, not partisan politics.
The lawyer Brady Toensing of Charlotte, Vermont, has a decade-long history of filing complaints against Democratic and progressive politicians, but Sen. Sanders' wife is his biggest target to date, the Associated Press reported.
Toensing, who is also a partner in the Washington-based law firm diGenova and Toensing, first alleged Jane Sanders committed bank fraud when she secured a $10 million loan for a land deal for the now-defunct Burlington College. She was president of the small liberal arts school 2004 to 2011.
A loan application signed by Jane Sanders stated the college was ready to take in millions in pledged donations should the loan go through, but CNN reported many of those donations never materialized.
Bernie Sanders has called Toensing’s probe “pathetic” and said it is an attempt at discrediting him.
Sanders, who lost the 2016 presidential primary to Hillary Clinton, has not ruled out a 2020 candidacy.
Bernie Sanders' wife not lawyer's only target
Toensing, 49, told the AP his efforts in filing complaints and public records requests are designed “to shine a light on the conduct of public officials.”
“An open government is a fundamental principle of our democracy and the sole purpose of the government sunshine law,” he told the AP in an email.
All the inquiries by Toensing, Vermont’s former Republican Party vice chairman, have been directed at Democratic politicians and members of Vermont’s Progressive Party, but Toensing said there’s a simple reason for that: “There aren’t many targets on the Republican side here in Vermont,” he said, referring to the state’s liberal makeup.
Jane Sanders is the most high profile target of Toensing’s investigations, and the probe has been earning Sanders a lot of attention from reporters.
Fraud allegations could hurt future Bernie Sanders candidacy
Though Bernie Sanders would be 79 on inauguration day in 2021, he hasn't said he won't run.
Colin Reed, the executive director of the GOP opposition research super PAC America Rising, told The Hill these allegations could spell bad news for a future Sanders candidacy.
Trust is a huge issue, especially for a presidential candidate,” Reed said.
“The longer these narratives have to bake in with the electorate, the more effective they are when voters go to vote. We learned that from Secretary Clinton — we were able to get a four-year head start on the research for her.”