Burlington College, founded in 1972, ultimately failed in 2017 when then-president Jane Sanders, Bernie Sanders’s wife, couldn’t pay off its debts from an ambitious campus purchase.
Now, the lingering questions about the college’s finances are based, in large part, on a three-page spreadsheet that lists all the confirmed and potential donors to the college’s 2010 capital campaign using each donor’s initials that helped Burlington College and Sanders to finance the purchase of a new $10 million lakefront campus.
From Burlington Free Press:
At least four of the donors included on the spreadsheet, however, have challenged the listed amount of their donations. The document now appears to be wrapped up in an ongoing FBI investigation about whether the donations were exaggerated to mislead the bank.
One former member of Burlington College’s board of trustees, David V. Dunn, said the board began to doubt the veracity of some of the capital campaign donations in the summer of 2011, and he says the doubts led to the removal of Sanders as president that fall. Dunn said the college’s finance office indicated that actual donations were less than what was originally represented.
A second former trustee, Jonathan Leopold, denied the account and said the board had no doubts about the approximately $2.6 million in listed capital campaign pledges. Leopold said the board was more concerned that additional fundraising efforts had stalled.
The college needed to raise $6 million to support the debt from the $10 million property purchase. College leaders also planned to renovate the spacious new campus, which would attract new students and their tuition dollars. The plan was to double enrollment.
“We didn’t have a strong history of capital campaigns, and we didn’t have an alumni base that lent itself to a capital campaign, so we knew that it was going to be a big lift,” said Leopold, who served on the college’s board of trustees for about six years.
Sanders, the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., reached out to wealthy contacts, including businessman and philanthropist Tony Pomerleau and philanthropist Crea Lintilhac. Trustees were asked to contribute some of their own money as well as seek out other donors.
Some of the donors have publicly questioned the amounts listed in their names:
College trustees and financial statements indicate that the college’s major capital campaign donor, Corinne Bove Maietta, promised to give $1 million upon her death. The bequest is listed instead as a series of cash payments in the college’s list of donations. Maietta has spoken about the bequest with the news organization VTDigger but could not be reached for further comment.
One former trustee, David V. Dunn, says his initials appear on the document next to an $18,000 confirmed pledge, but he never made any pledge.
Another former trustee, Rob Michalak, believes his initials are marked down for a $5,000 commitment. The pledge was lower than $5,000, Michalak said, while declining to disclose the amount in his records.
A third trustee, Ron Leavitt, told VTDigger in 2015 that though he was listed as a $60,000 donor, he never pledged that amount. He said he gave only $30,000. Leavitt could not be reached for further comment.
Tony Pomerleau, who was listed as an unconfirmed $1 million donor on the list, said he offered the gift to Sanders as a matching donation if the college was able to secure a first $1 million. There is no indication on the donor list that the pledge was dependent on another gift.
Sanders left the college under a separation agreement in October 2011. Burlington College was ultimately unable to fulfill its fundraising or enrollment goals, and debt from the 2010 property purchase led to the college’s closure in May 2016.
The Burlington Free Press recently interviewed nine people known to be donors to Burlington College or whose initials matched the college’s list. Of the nine, seven people confirmed the amount of their pledges or indicated they likely would have been included on a list of potential donors.
Nearly a month ago, we reported Mrs. Sanders pathetically said in response to her accuser, Vermont GOP Vice Chair Brady Toensing, that she finds it “incredibly sexist” that he’s bringing her husband into it and “destroying (her) reputation.”
Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, she, like a typical liberal, blames sexism for her problems, even though more proof that she was in the wrong here is coming to light.
This entire ordeal shows exactly why we can’t trust socialists with our money, and hopefully justice for Mrs. Sanders comes soon.