Think Tank Founded by Bernie Sanders’ Wife and Son Is Shutting Down Amid Criticism
(CONCORD, N.H.) — The Sanders Institute, a think tank founded by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ wife and son, is shutting down, at least for now, amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning.
The Vermont-based institute has stopped accepting donations and plans to suspend all operations by the end of May “so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety,” Jane Sanders told The Associated Press.
The unexpected move by the institute’s board of directors comes as Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, prepares for a wave of intense scrutiny into his political network and his family’s role in its operation.
As a candidate in 2016, Sanders criticized Hillary Clinton over her family’s nonprofit, saying the foundation run by Clinton’s husband and daughter amounted to a back door for foreign leaders and others seeking to buy access and influence. The Sanders Institute could open the Vermont senator to charges of hypocrisy.
The institute was founded to promote liberal policies less than two years ago by Sanders’ family with the backing of pro-Sanders celebrities and advocates— though Sanders himself had no formal role. While it operates at a fraction of the scale of the Clinton Foundation, it has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars during its brief existence and has declined to disclose its donors.
Jane Sanders, who also serves as a chief adviser to her husband’s presidential campaign, is not compensated for her role at the institute. Her son, David Driscoll, is paid $100,000 a year as co-founder and executive director. Driscoll previously was an executive for Nike and the Vermont snowboarding firm Burton, but had no previous nonprofit experience, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The lack of transparency and the family ties have drawn criticism from good-government advocates.
“For a politician who runs on fairness and socialist principles, this looks like the old political games,” said Lawrence R. Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “It’s a product of running a political operation in which family rules the roost.”
Jane Sanders said the institute will not accept more money so long as her husband is a presidential candidate. Driscoll and the organization’s two other employees would be laid off with no severance by the end of May, and its Burlington, Vermont, office would be closed, she said. Sanders said questions of nepotism have no merit because the senator himself played no role in the organization, which was led by an independent board of directors.
“I think that was the most important thing to do — to not accept donations, because nobody should think that they’re giving money to an organization and that gains them access or favor to anybody else and anybody running for office,” she said in an interview this week. She added: “It just seemed the responsible thing to do.”
In her own founding role at the institute, Jane Sanders acted as the organization’s curator, both online and in person. …read more
Source:: Time – Politics