Nothing To See Here: How Bernie Sanders Quietly Shut Down His Family's Vermont Think Tank

Shut. It. Down.

Those three simple words were heard loudly in the city of Burlington, Vermont yesterday as The Sanders Institute, a think tank set up by Bernie Sanders and run by his wife and son, decided to formally suspend operations after a mere 18 months. At a time when Sanders has received a new round of calls to release his taxes, it should come as no surprise that Sanders and his family are now taking a closer look at their family finances. As has been reported on this site, Sanders has now earned over $1.5 million over the past two years as personal income outside his congressional salary. Much of this comes from publication and sale of his two books, the second of which was released in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump's election. Thanks to his 2016 presidential run, Sanders, the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, has been able to afford a $700 jacket, tickets to the Broadway musical Hamilton, and a third Vermont home, valued at $575,000. All and all, it's been a nice, profitable political revolution for the independent senator from Vermont.

But Sanders is a giver. Instead of simply giving to himself, he provides opportunities to give to his family and friends as well. Nowhere has this been more apparent than with the Sanders Institute, a 5019(c)3 which was founded 18 months ago by Sanders' wife Jane, thanks in large part to a generous $190,000 loan from Our Revolution, the PAC formed in August of 2016 with Sanders' current campaign manager Nina Turner having been the organization's president. Despite a grandiose mission statement about wanting to create a better world, an in-depth article by VT Digger found that during its maiden year, the institute had little to show for it's nearly $500,000 working budget. What it did have to show was its salaries, $100,000 of which went to David Driscoll, Bernie Sanders' stepson, who ran the institute after having been previously employed at Burton Snowboards. Also on staff were Ellyn Heald and Colleen Lineweaver, who received $75,000 each for the roles of fellowship director and research director respectively. Heald, a former actor, entered politics by working on Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. Lineweaver, with previous work at a political consulting firm, just happens to be married to Our Revolution's director, Shannon Jackson.

So there was clear motivation for Sanders to make sure that the institute in his name would be able to make money, actual results be damned. Perhaps at no point was there more apparent than this past November when the Sanders Institute held a three-day conference in Burlington that drew such big names as actor Danny Glover, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and environmentalist Bill McKibben. As a grassroots organization based in Vermont, one would think that this institute would provide a space for local voices and local issues, but that simply was not the case. In fact, the conference was blasted by Vermont activists for facing an excessive $350 entrance fee and also for not having a single panel discussion based on local Vermont issues. Of course, why would you have a conference with regular Joes when you could have one with celebrities and charge a whopping $350 a pop to be allowed access inside? What the conference was actually about was that big draw and that big draw was intended as a way for the Sanders family to rake in the big bucks.

In April of 2015, Bernie Sanders said the following about the Clinton Foundation:

It tells me what is a very serious problem. It's not just about Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton. It's about a political system today that is dominated by big money...So do I have concerns about the Clinton Foundation and that money? I do...I am one of the exceptions. I am not going to start a super PAC. I'm not going to go around the country talking to millionaires.

In the end, Sanders was correct. The political system is dominated by big money. But as it turns out, it is a system that Sanders is all too willing to take part of when it benefits himself and his family. Whereas the Clinton Foundation willingly discloses its donors, the Sanders Institute has refused to do so ahead of suspending operations. It's almost as if Sanders doesn't want the public knowing who funds his work. Add this to the fact that Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign refused to file their final FEC filing and you can see that there exists a cloud of suspicion around Sanders and his family's personal wealth. The Sanders Institute is the latest example of Bernie Sanders, champion of transparency, refusing to disclose his funders. Like Donald Trump, if Sanders has nothing to hide, he should simply go ahead and release all his information: his tax returns, his final FEC filing, the donor list from the Sanders Institute. But we all know Sanders is hiding something and he has decided that the greater risk for him is releasing that rather than being seen as a massive hypocrite. When it comes down to it, Bernie Sanders remains one of the least transparent candidates in modern political history.and that is because the truth would shatter his perceived reputation as a man of the people. When push comes to shove, Bernie Sanders is out to make a quick buck, just like those millionaires and billions he pretends to hate.  But as a millionaire himself, Sanders now sees no point in stopping making money any way that he can.

And America's socialist grifter will now move on to his next great scheme: running for president in 2020.

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