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.