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Republicans Claim Sanders Used Senate Office To Help Wife At Burlington College

Vermont Republican Party Vice Chairman Brady Toensing called on Sen. Bernie Sanders this week to release documents related to the senator’s involvement in a financing deal his wife secured for Burlington College while she was president of the alternative liberal arts college.

Burlington College announced earlier this month that it is closing due to financial problems. College officials said People’s United Bank, the college’s lender, refused to renew its line of credit.

People’s United Bank provided a loan for Burlington College to purchase its headquarters building on Burlington’s North Avenue from the Burlington Catholic Diocese. The financing deal was secured when Sen. Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, was president of the college.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, Toensing said that he “was recently approached and informed that Senator Bernard Sanders’s office improperly pressured People’s United Bank to approve the loan application submitted by the Senator’s wife, Ms. Sanders.”

Toensing also called on Sen. Sanders to release any documents related to his involvement in the financing deal.

A spokesman for Sanders said the claims are politically motivated “lying.”

Earlier this year, Toensing called for a federal investigation of Jane Sanders involved in securing financing for the college. He alleges that she committed federal loan fraud by overstating the amount of money the college could raise to pay for a property purchased from the Catholic Diocese of Burlington in 2010.

This week, Toensing also wrote a letter to Sanders, calling on him to “publicly release all documents concerning Burlington College and your [Sen. Sanders’] involvement with a loan application submitted by your wife, as President of Burlington College, to a federally-insured bank for a $10 million property transaction.

Toensing is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and is representing Wendy Wilton, a Rutland Republican who is seeking the federal investigation, according to Toensing’s letter, because she is a member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Rutland Vermont. According to Toensing, Wilton alleges the financing deal cost the Catholic Diocese to lose $2 million.

Bishop Christopher Coyne, who oversees the Burlington Diocese, denied that the land deal caused any harm.

In a statement, Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said the accusations were politically motivated.

"Brady Toensing is the vice chair of the Vermont Republican Party. Wendy Wilkins [sic] is a former Republican candidate for statewide office,” Briggs said in an emailed statement. “Bernie is currently running for president of the United States to make certain that the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, will not become president of the United States and do disastrous harm to our country. Nothing more needs to be said about this preposterous and politically-instigated charge. Sadly, making outrageous and lying personal attacks against candidates and their families is what modern-day Republican politics is all about.”

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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