What’s with all the secrecy, Bernie?

Two recent stories on VTDigger raise further questions about a subject that ought to concern every open-minded Vermont liberal: Why is Bernie Sanders so secretive — and so defensive — about his personal finances?

The latest article explains how Sanders skated around federal disclosure requirements for presidential candidates. Federal law mandated disclosure by mid-May, but Sanders’ attorney requested a 45-day extension. When that was running out, he asked for another.

By the time the second extension was on fumes, Sanders had formally ended his presidential bid. No longer a candidate, no longer required to disclose.

The Sanders campaign requested the delays because Bernie was so busy, what with being a presidential candidate and a Senator and all. But four things about that:

— All the other candidates were also busy running for president, and presumably managed to file.

— Bernie wasn’t exactly spending much time on his Senatorial duties, what with skipping virtually every Senate vote from January to July.

— He had a fully-staffed, big-ass campaign operation. Surely someone could have been tasked with preparing the disclosure.

— as Sanders consigliere Michael Briggs said elsewhere in the story, the disclosure “would have looked pretty much the same” as his Congressional filings in past years.

But… if it would have been “pretty much the same”, wouldn’t it have been a breeze to prepare?

Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Then there are the unanswered questions about Sanders’ purchase of a $600,000 vacation home on Lake Champlain in North Hero. His third home, by the way. Jane O’Meara Sanders had explained that the sale of a family getaway in Maine gave her the money to buy the North Hero spread, which was paid in full up front without a mortgage.

Her explanation seemed reasonable — until VTDigger reported that the Maine property was jointly held by O’Meara Sanders and two siblings. Hence,  her share of the manse was presumably one-third, or some similar fraction. (The Maine home is worth slightly more than the North Hero spread.)

Also, her share was transferred to her two siblings. No indication how much cash changed hands — if any.

But let’s say she got full value for one-third of the property. That’s roughly $200,000. Where did the Sanderses come up with the other $400,000?

Update: According to VTDigger, O’Meara Sanders received $150,000 for her share of the Maine property. That leaves the Sanderses more than $400,000 short of the North Hero purchase price.

No answers, despite repeated inquiries.

And then you go back to his most recent (2015) Congressional disclosure, which lists “up to $50,000 in credit card debt and up to $1 million in mortgage debt.”

Doesn’t sound like a guy who can suddenly produce $400K in cash.

Add all this to Sanders’ refusal to release his tax returns, potentially giving Donald Trump some bipartisan cover for doing the same thing. The Sanders camp has insisted that his finances are “boring” and he is known as one of the least affluent members of the Senate.

But why all the secrecy? Why the staunch refusal to answer questions — and even taking offense at the very idea that he might be questioned on the subject?

Now, add to all of this the black-box nature of his campaign finances, with millions and millions being funneled through an obscure media-buying outfit headquartered in a suburban D.C. house and operated by two longtime acquaintance of Jane O’Meara Sanders.

It is all very unbecoming of a public servant, much less a public servant who advocates transparency in politics. I really don’t think Bernie is a crook or anything; I just don’t understand all the secrecy and defensiveness.

He should be grilled repeatedly on this until he provides some answers. He owes it to the people he claims to serve.



13 thoughts on “What’s with all the secrecy, Bernie?

  1. David Ellenbogen

    Don’t forget the golden parachute that Jane received as thanks for wreaking havoc with Burlington College. In what year would that have been reported?

  2. ApacheTrout

    Having credit card debt and a mortgage debt doesn’t necessarily mean you are cash poor. The insinuation that a third home is some luxury is also not quite right, especially since the DC home (#2) is related to his job as Senator. The questions on whether this adds up to something fishy warrant investigation by reporters, but it sure seems that VT Digger is jumping the gun. Maybe they are laying the groundwork for something big, but right now their journalistic integrity seems to be wallowing in the mud.

  3. Faith King

    God, the Vermont Press really doesn’t like Sanders. Oh boy. He stepped on the club’s fingers big time, apparently…. Nothing like pissed-off reporters to hold a grudge. The only people yammering to know the Story Behind the Vacation House appear to be members of the press – as they diligently toil away, dropping a trail of bread crumbs intended to suggest that Sanders is a thief. Reminds me of an LBJ story I heard. Apparently he advocated public statements that one’s opponent is a “goat-fucker”, thus forcing said opponent to get up in front of the cameras and declare “I am not a goat fucker”, or , fail to repudiate the allegation. In which case the “goat-fucker” story would remain, hanging like a delightful cloud. Either way, a win/win. Opponent embarrassed.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      It’s not just the vacation house, it’s the multifaceted dodging of disclosure requirements and legitimate questions about his finances. If you can’t see that, you’re deep in the bag for Bernie.

      And it was “pig-fucker,” by the way.

      1. ApacheTrout

        Legitimate questions for a reporter to ask, no doubt. Mrs. Sanders answered them, obviously not to your or VT Digger reporters satisfaction. But does that warrant a front page story full of insinuations of criminal or illegal behavior, as VT Digger did yesterday? In my opinion, absolutely not. It warrants continued investigation, especially on the lines of the ownership of Old Town Media. Maybe something turns up, maybe not. Right now, It sure seems like the story is half-baked at best, with a good (say 50/50) chance of turning into an embarrassment for VT Digger.

      2. Faith King

        And John, I’d be much more inclined to swallow these ‘press-concocted-cod-liver-Sanders-cocktails’ if those doing the concocting had turned their Spotlights for Truth on to the ‘other candidate’ during the primary. And asked some – any – legitimate questions about that very, very wealthy candidate’s finances. But I must have missed that. Being as it is so dark here in the bag. (And Sanders should meet the disclosure requirement, even though the campaign is over)

  4. NanuqFC

    My guess is that, as an avowed Socialist, Bernie has a healthy paranoia about government intrusion into his life — political and personal, financial and otherwise. He’s certainly old enough to have lived through and seen the outcome of Cointelpro, and to know people who had first-hand experience of the Joe McCarthy era of Red-baiting leftists and liberals as Communist sympathizers.

    Perhaps it’s an ingrained reflex — and the same reason he hasn’t (to my knowledge) shared his email list with the DNC, even though he demanded as a right full access to all info the party (whose candidates he never helped and which he never joined) had.

    And can you find out for us whether Jane Sanders’ so-called ‘golden parachute’ from Burlington College was reported on Bernie’s 2012 congressional disclosure? I’d hate to have to rely on that “presumably.”

    I’m not excusing Bernie’s avoidant behavior and regulation-ducking. He should be as transparent as he says others should be. If he is going to talk the talk and make demands of others, he ought to live by the same rules and set an example.

  5. Robert Haskins

    The 2016 Feel The Bern chapter didn’t end well. Bernie endorses the woman who represents everything he railed against for a year and a half. Now when looking in the mirror, can’t provide a minimal amount of transparency on his own questionable finances. The icing on the socialist cake, buying that waterfront 3rd house weeks after shutting down your “I’m with the little guy campaign”.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve been had.

    1. Ed

      The average person has been “had” by many politicians, of all political stripes, for a long time. There’s the “blue collar billionaire” Trump flying to rallies in his private jet saying he’s for the little guy, Clinton, who said she was “broke” when she and Bill left the White House, and now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, closer to home there’s Bruce Lisman and Matt Dunne, millionaires “fighting for the little guy”. Many, many more examples of right and left wing rich folks seeking our votes and promising a chicken in every pot and a Ford in every garage.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s