While not necessarily illegal, the Sanders family’s apparent tendency to keep deals within the family, so to speak, is somewhat at odds with Sanders’ emphatic focus on anticorruption rhetoric.
But public records examined by the Free Beacon reportedly show Sanders’ family endeavors often had the added feature of benefitting those close to them.
Early on, Sanders’ wife—Jane O’Meara Sanders—and his stepdaughter, Carina Driscoll, both received salaries from his early political campaigns. (Sanders’ House campaign reportedly paid O’Meara Sanders $90,000 for “consulting and ad placement services from 2002 to 2004.” Driscoll, too, got paid $65,000 between 2000 and 2004.)
And at Burlington College, where O’Meara Sanders served as president until 2011, at least two contracts yielded six-figure payouts for companies run by Driscoll and a close friend of the Sanders family.
One friend who benefitted was the son of Jonathan Leopold (also named Jonathan), a friend so close to Sanders he once called him “family.” According to the Free Beacon, the Burlington began paying for students studying abroad in the Bahamas to stay at a resort owned by Leopold, who was also a Burlington board member.
Shortly after Leopold’s son, also named Jonathan, purchased the resort, Burlington College began writing it large checks for all-inclusive stays for its study abroad students.
The younger Leopold later said during a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by a student who was injured at the rest that he conducted boat tours and snorkeling trips “on behalf of Burlington College.”
According to the Free Beacon, the payments stopped the year after O’Meara Sanders left the school.
A year later, the school also stopped making payments to the Vermont Woodworking School, where most of the classes for Burlington’s Woodworking and Fine Furniture-Making B.F.A were held. The Woodworking School, which was reportedly paid about $500,000 by Burlington, was founded by Sanders’ step-daughter, Driscoll.