By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has opted to parachute out of a response to a hard-hitting ad claiming he and his wife, Jane Sanders, benefited from a $200,000 golden parachute severance package from Burlington College.
In the advocacy ad paid for by Skip Vallee, a resident of Shelburne and owner of fuel dealer R.L. Vallee Inc., Sanders is seen blasting the rich for manipulating “a rigged system” and “getting golden parachutes.”
The ad then states the Sanderses benefitted from a cushy severance of $200,000 following Jane Sanders’ 2011 resignation from Burlington College, where she served as president. The executive pay amounted to nearly four times the average annual household income in Vermont, the ad says.
While Sanders is widely expected to make a run for the White House in 2016, Vermont’s junior senator and self-described Democratic socialist might have better luck parachuting in after his response to the ad.
Instead of clarifying the senator’s confusing position on lavish executive severance packages, or discussing the option to return the money, Sanders’ spokesman Mike Briggs attacked Vallee’s gas station business and the Koch Brothers. Jane Sanders defended the pay as standard practice for colleges and said the ad itself was an example of why her husband needs to be president.
As president at Burlington College, Jane Sanders led a controversial 2010 campaign to purchase a 33-acre campus on Lake Champlain for $10 million, despite no votes of two board members from the state loan-approval agency.
The college is now on the verge of technical default as the organization struggles to make payments on its debt.
Upon resigning in 2011, Jane Sanders walked away with a $200,000 severance package consisting of a one-year paid sabbatical.
Blasting the rich is a trademark of Sen. Sanders. On Sunday, he told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, “There is profound anger at the greed on Wall Street and corporate America,” adding that the middle class was collapsing while the gap between the “very rich and everybody else is growing wider.”
In statements released in the past two weeks, Sanders has railed against perceived financial inequity, argued for limits on corporate campaign donations and demanded mandatory salary quotas for women.
The Sanderses didn’t respond to Watchdog.org’s request for clarification on the senator’s position on severance packages for executives.
Contact Bruce Parker@watchdog.org