"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," goes the line so often used to describe hare-brained liberal schemes. That vintage phrase captures perfectly the quagmire in which Bernie and Jane Sanders find themselves rapidly sinking in the saga of Burlington College. But the tale provides so much more than affirming that age-old aphorism. It offers a microcosmic view into the mind and methodology of liberal policymakers everywhere.
In short, the scheme concocted by the former Democratic Socialist presidential candidate's wife, Jane Sanders, when she was president of Burlington College serves up everything we've come to expect of modern Democrats: delusional visions of glorious benefits to be realized by the masses if we follow their screwball ideas; a shady real estate deal; phony and fraudulent claims used as the basis for getting other people to part with their money; alleged pressure from a powerful Democratic politician on a government-regulated institution to go along with their idea, or else; and, of course, no modern Democratic scandal is complete without a computer server potentially figuring in – in this case, a stolen one. The only thing missing is the sex. But the investigation is still young.
Anyway, here's the backstory. The board of a tiny New England college in Vermont, Burlington College, in the town where Bernie Sanders used to be mayor before he rose to lofty heights in the Senate and then the socialist precincts of the national Democratic Party, had the notion of hiring Bernie's wife to be their esteemed college's new president in 2004. What qualified her for the job? Who knows, but I'm sure being married to the then-U.S. congressman from Vermont and the town's former mayor didn't hurt. The mayoralty, by the way, was Bernie's first steady job. Before that, he literally couldn't feed his family.
The college suffered from low enrollment numbers and dismal donation income. So President Jane (the term "President Sanders" is too shudder-inducing to use) had an idea. The college could buy and relocate to a beautiful 33-acre tract of lakefront land owned by the Catholic Diocese of Burlington on which sat a former orphanage and still housed an active home for the disabled. President Jane somehow convinced the school's board that acquiring this property would incite new students to flock to the college, and gobs of donations would roll in. Why exactly she thought this is a mystery, but it probably burbled up from the same type of thought processes that created Obamacare – you know, that scheme whereby adding millions of people, many poor and unemployed, to a national health care program would somehow lower the cost of health insurance to American families by an average of $2,500. You can keep your doctor and your health plan, too.
So President Jane decides to buy this property for her school but needs to finance it with a $6.5-million bank loan. The hitch was that she had to come up with $2.27 million in pledged donations and grants to secure the loan. That's where things get sticky.
It turns out that some of the folks whom President Jane told the bank would be donating money didn't actually make such a commitment, or at least not for the amounts of money claimed on the loan documents. President Jane, for example, claimed that 83-year-old donor Corinne Bove Maietta, heiress to a restaurant fortune, had pledged $1 million to the college. However, Ms. Maietta denied making such a commitment, and her accountant told the Daily Caller that the FBI had contacted Ms. Maietta to interview her in connection with the Burlington College matter. The FBI reached out to interview other Burlington College donors as well, like orthopedic surgeon Ron Leavitt, as well as the college's former board members. Rather than the $2.27 million she was supposed to raise, President Jane raised only $676,000.
Well, the best laid plans being what they are, Burlington College didn't realize the bounty President Jane had promised from her land deal inspiration. The college's enrollment figures and donations didn't improve significantly, President Jane was forced out in 2011 with a hefty severance, and the school declared bankruptcy and shuttered in 2016, largely from the burden of debt saddled upon it from the land purchase, which chairman of the board Yves Bradley called "crushing."
In 2014, intrepid Vermont lawyer and dogged investigator Brady Toensing began digging into Burlington College's finances and unearthing scathing information, which he would provide to the local press. He wrote letters in 2016 to the U.S. attorney for Vermont and the FDIC demanding investigations into the college land deal. They complied, with the FBI launching an investigation, which may now have engulfed Bernie Sanders himself. According to the Associated Press, Toensing alleged that Sanders's Senate office pressured the bank to make the loan, although the FBI wouldn't confirm for the paper that he is being investigated.
The plot thickens: as reported by Vermont's journalistic dynamo, VTDigger, Burlington College was burglarized in July 2016, two months after it permanently closed up shop. Among the items stolen were computers, external hard drives, and the college's main computer server. Interestingly, the police reported no sign of forced entry. While the Burlington Police Department conducted an investigation and had a suspect, he was eventually released based on a "lack of evidence," and the investigation was closed. Former school officials suspect that it was an "inside job."
I think it's time we gave this thing a name. Since journalists enjoy attaching the suffix "-gate" to political scandals, how about Orphanagegate? Okay, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and might be a little too oblique a reference. Burlingtongate? Meh. I think I've got it. Berniegate! After all, as we've seen, Bernie himself may now be tied to the growing conflagration involving Burlington College.
There are so many ways to go with this story, as it raises so many ghosts of Democrat scandals past. The wife of the Democrats' new socialist standard-bearer, who demanded free college for all in his presidential campaign, destroyed the college she ran with insurmountable debt. Like Obamacare, her deal promised much but ended up savaging those it was supposed to help. The alleged loan document fraud over a land purchase reminds us of the Clintons' Whitewater land deals. If Bernie did press the bank to issue the loan, one can't help but remember the politicians who pressed banks to issue subprime mortgages to unqualified borrowers, which crashed the market in 2008. And of course, there are the stolen Burlington College computers and server. Does anyone know of Hillary Clinton's whereabouts in July 2016?