Sunday, May 29, 2016

BOMBSHELL! Did Bernie break Senate rules?

A lawyer claims that Bernie Sanders played a role in the demise of Burlington College -- and thereby broke Senate rules.

This post will give you the full details of that story. But first, let's look at a related item...

Sanders has undone the one lovable thing he did. I beamed when Sanders said that nobody cares about Hillary's "damn emails." Now, he tarnishes his reputation by taking it back.
Interviewed Friday on “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO, Sanders was asked if the furor over Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state had become large enough for the Vermont senator to reconsider his refusal to engage Clinton on the issue.

“It has,” he said. “But this is what I also think: There is an enormous frustration on the part of the American people.”
Sanders is so desperate for a win in California that he hopes to convince people that a nothingburger contains actual beef. (As we shall see, Sanders himself is under federal scrutiny -- a fact which he hopes will go unnoticed by California's voters.)

Maniac time. If you click the above link, you'll be particularly stunned by the comments...
Hillary goes after Trump for saying he would be able to use a housing melt down to buy low but not even she claims Trump was the cause of the melt down. Her friend Barney Frank is as responsible as any one person for the problems with the housing market. He and other like minded dems were practically forcing people who could not afford a home loan to get one anyway.
Where do people come up with this crap?

I could not afford a home in the 2000-2008 period. At no point did Barney Frank contact me to say: "Cannon, I really must insist that you get a home loan. If you go another two months without locking yourself into a mortgage, I'll be very cross with you."

And then there are those lovely moments when the BernieBros come right out and admit that they hope to elect Trump...

Meanwhile, the Bernmeister himself is telling Chuck Todd that the superdelegates have a “grave responsibility” to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t become president. Bernie, why do so many of your followers act as though they have a grave responsibility to insure that Donald Trump does become president?

(As we've seen, Trump would certainly win if Sanders somehow attained the nomination.)

HERE'S THE BOMSHELL! We've seen Hillary's emails. We will soon see the documents in the court case involving Trump's fake university. But what about the documents that Bernie is hiding?

It turns out that we haven't been told the entire truth regarding the demise of Burlington College. If this letter from the law firm of diGenova and Toensing is on the level -- and I think it is -- then Bernie Sanders himself bears no small measure of responsibility for the downfall of that institution.

Moreover, his office seems to have behaved in a fashion contrary to the Senate's rules. He could face censure -- possibly even expulsion, although that is highly unlikely. (There have been only two expulsions in modern times: Both involved House members, not Senators, and both concerned charges of bribery.)

Below the asterisks, I will publish the body of the letter sent by attorney Brady C. Toensing to Bernie Sanders (with key sections boldfaced by me). I'll return with some further words after the letter.

* * *

Dear Senator Sanders,

This firm represents Wendy Wilton, an active Catholic and member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Rutland Vermont. On behalf of Ms. Wilton and other aggrieved Vermont parishioners, we request that your office publicly release all documents concerning Burlington College and you 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.

That transaction, which involved Burlington College's purchase of the Roman Catholic Diocese headquarters, not only led to the demise of the college but almost $2 million in losses to the Burlington Catholic Diocese. The college's recently announced, resulting insolvency will no doubt lead to further losses to the bank and losses to Vermont small businesses that provided services and goods to the school. Furthermore, the taxpayers of Vermont are likely to lose tens of thousands of dollars as a result of an outstanding, ill-advised and unsecured loan made by the Vermont Economic Development Authority (while your wife served as a paid member of its board) to Burlington College.

The current president of Burlington College said the "crushing weight of debt" brought on by this transaction, which was driven and designed by your wife prior to her firing, was the cause of its closure. Had the school stayed in its original location, as humble and inglorious as that was, it would still be here today serving its niche of students and the community.

Currently available evidence indicates that Burlington College failed because the privileged spouse of a powerful United States Senator received special treatment for a loan she should never have gotten for a property purchase that should never have been approved. Making matters worse, I was recently informed that your office contacted People's United Bank and pressured them to approve the loan application submitted by your wife.

As you are well aware, it is improper and against Senate Ethics Rules for your office to get involved in any way with a loan transaction that benefits a family member. Senate Ethics R. 35(b)(1) and (b)(2)(A). Under these rules it is improper for a spouse to receive favorable treatment for a loan "...because of the official position of the Member..." Senate Ethics R. 35(b)(2)(A).

Your campaign, which is partly led and orchestrated by your wife, has ironically and hypocritically made widespread mortgage fraud and its relation to the 2008 financial collapse the centerpiece of its campaign. You have also called on Secretary Hillary Clinton to release transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street firms, which you also blame for the collapse. Yet you cynically refuse to release your tax returns, which will presumably show you directly benefitted from the $200,000 Golden Parachute paid to your wife from a school that was in financial trouble due to her apparent loan fraud.

It is time to disclose these and all other documents related to this transaction, including your wife's Golden Parachute agreement, all communications your office had with People's United Bank, and all communications with VEDA, so that the full story behind this financial calamity is revealed. Vermont parishioners, Vermont citizens, and local vendors that are still owed money deserve to know the full story behind this improper transaction. Although you and the rest of Congress have exempted yourselves from having to produce public records in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, it is important that you release these documents and fully disclose your role in this transaction.

According to news reports, this matter is already the subject of an active federal investigation. Therefore any attempt to improperly influence witnesses or to destroy relevant evidence is prohibited by federal law. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512, 1517, and 1519. Additionally, you and members of your staff may be called as witnesses and be required to produce documents in litigation that will inevitably result from the collapse of Burlington College, its like bankruptcy (or insolvency), and attempts to recover losses.

* * *

Cannon here. For further background, see this story from last January in
In loan documents from 2010, [Jane] Sanders overstated the pledged donations of at least two people listed as confirmed donors in a list of pledges used to secure a $6.7 million from People’s United Bank, according to a VTDigger investigation.

People’s United Bank has previously refused to comment on the loan, which was settled when the college sold the land to developer Eric Farrell.

Toensing writes in the complaint that it’s impossible to know how much money People’s United Bank lost on its loan (that information is not public), but ultimately that’s irrelevant, he says because federal banking laws don’t require that fraud materially impact the lending institution, only that the deception was intentional.
That was the state of play in January. I had no idea that the Senator himself had intervened with the bank until I had read Toensing's letter.


Anonymous said...

As presented you are right Joseph. A serious infraction and certainly a problem for the Senator. Meets my definition of corruption. Those of us who are sympathetic to Sanders program, would hope that there is some factual inaccuracy here.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Might explain Jane Sanders' absence from campaign functions and TV appearances of late.

What makes me queasy, however, is the mention of the law firm--diGenova and Toensing. These two lovelies are a Fox News tag team, right-wing operatives who love stirring controversy and half-baked legal theories. I don't know what went down with the Burlington College mess. Jane certainly does not have a head for finance and there was some indication of a very rich friend who has profited handsomely from his Bernie connections. Said friend (can't recall the name) managed to weasel out of a Telecom scandal in Vermont.

Is this legal investigation for real? Don't know but the diGenova/Toensing connection is highly suspect. Could they be trying to deflect an inquiry into Republican operatives funneling money into Sanders' campaign, an attempt to wound HRC? The FEC has had nearly monthly inquiries into Bernie's campaign donations, a good amount not passing the smell test.

The plot thickens!


Joseph Cannon said...

You are right about the lawyers. But if this were a GOP plot, there would be a lot more publicity for this lawsuit on the right-wing sites.

Stephen Morgan said...

I'm not convinced by the lawyers' letter, there. They want it to be fraud, and openly call it fraud, but offer no reason to believe that's what it is. There's no evidence of deception, and only the usual over-generous pay-off to a member of the capitalist class as evidence of personal gain, no evidence of either deception or personal gain in the so-called fraud. Seems more like the wife was just trying to save a struggling institution through expansion, and failed miserably.

I stand by my haiku.

b said...

Donald Trump is an extremely dangerous creature, a highly ambitious multi-billionaire. I wonder whether his "Organisation" may have been planning his presidential bid not for just for 3-4 years but for longer?

I'm no expert on US politics, but a look through the list of US presidential candidates at Wikipedia suggests that since 1900 there has only been one other Republican candidate who, like Trump, had no record of high-level public service (cough) before he ran for the presidency. That was Wendell Wilkie in 1940.

It's fascinating that during George W Bush's presidency (2001-2009), Trump supported the Democratic party.

Not only did the Clintons attend Trump's wedding reception in 2005; but Trump actually funded the Clintons' Foundation.

In 2008, when he was still a Democrat, he wrote that Hillary Clinton would make a great "president or vice-president".

What's been going on?

He's never held public office. He's been a private-sector business boss who has cultivated friends in both major political parties, while building up his recognition value among the population, over a long period.

Might it be the Trump effort, rather than the Republican Party, that's been running Stone who's running Sanders? If a Trump bid for the presidency has been planned for some time, but only put into practice when he decided he was sure to win, then his influence in the Democratic Party, gained partly when he was supportive of it and friendly with leading figures in it, may be more extensive than simply what is required to run a vitriolic opposition within the party to Hillary Clinton. It generally takes two sides to split a political party. Might both sides have been ratfucked?

A test of this hypothesis is whether the Clinton campaign makes an apparently stupid miscalculation, fucks up big-time somehow, thereby helping Trump. I hope this doesn't happen.

Anonymous said...

Is the lawyer who wrote that letter stupid or incredibly stupid?

The loan wasn't made to Jane Sanders. It was made to Burlington College. Below are the Senate rules cited in the letter. Was the loan a "gift" within the meaning of Senate rules? Yes. Was the "gift" made to Jane Sanders? No.

I concede that Jane Sanders probably thought she was doing the right thing for the long-term growth and sustainability of BC. At best, her decision and subsequent actions were dubious. At worst they were malfeasance and (if we are to believe news reports) deceptive. For all I know, Bernie may have violated some rule or some law somewhere, sometime. But he didn't violate the two rules cited in the attorney's letter, as applied to the BC loan.


(b)(1) For the purpose of this rule, the term ``gift'' means any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. The term includes gifts of services, training, transportation, lodging, and meals, whether provided in kind, by purchase of a ticket, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred.

(2)(A) A gift to a family member of a Member, officer, or employee, or a gift to any other individual based on that individual's relationship with the Member, officer, or employee, shall be considered a gift to the Member, officer, or employee if it is given with the knowledge and acquiescence of the Member, officer, or employee and the Member, officer, or employee has reason to believe the gift was given because of the official position of the Member, officer, or employee.

Joseph Cannon said...

I don't think it is stretching things too much to argue that the approval of a loan constitutes the "gift of services." Moreover, I don't think it is exculpatory if the loan was made to Jane's college rather than Jane herself.

That said, I am troubled by the lack of specificity in Toensing's letter. Just what is the nature of the information regarding pressure put on the back? How did the lawyer learn of this? And what, specifically, was the nature of the pressure?

Those questions are the reason why I put a question mark in the headline. Toensing clearly is a political animal and he obviously has a bias -- that much is clear from his letter. But I don't think that Toensing is a fool.

Joseph Cannon said...

Sorry...I meant "pressure put on the BANK." Not "the back."

I'm not talking about massage here.

Anonymous said...

If the lawyers are conservatives this means that Sanders exhausted his usefulness for them. It tells if he had won it would have been slaughter from day one. He wouldn't know what hit him. Thank God that democrats are smarter than people give them credit for

Bob Harrison said...

Good stuff. I read about it earlier in the day but didn't pick up on the Senate rules. Dropped a "b" in bombshell above. re "HERE'S THE BOMSHELL" (I hate it when I do that and its days before I notice it.)

Alessandro Machi said...

If Sanders or his office contacted the Bank to approve the loan, that sounds problematical to me. As for Fox News being involved, why would Fox News suddenly want Bernie Sanders to fail? I thought the conservative game plan was to get Bernie past Hillary or have Bernie damage Ms. Clinton enough so that Trump wins.
The "you" should be "your" typo, was that made by Mr. Cannon or the Lawyer?

Alessandro Machi said...

Harry, a resoundingly polite response from you.

Tom Matlock said...

Seeing diGenova/Toensing on the letter head might as well be Drudge, Joe. Their (especially her) behavior and lies during the Valerie Plame investigation should have been enough to get them dis-barred. But we'll see. But once you get your wish and Bernie goes away, we will get to watch that pair in action for the next several rehashing every Clinton conspiracy known to sling their slime on the wall hoping something sticks.