Judging by remarks Sen. Bernie Sanders has made on the campaign trail about what he will do to millionaires and billionaires should he wind up in the White House, one might be surprised that he is in that class himself.
Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats but calls himself an Independent of socialist leanings, once told CNN talking head Anderson Cooper that he prefers to live frugally, and does not give a fig for wealth or status, despite having been a career politician for most of his adult life and living off the taxpayers during that time. He said that his car, in contrast to the SUVs preferred by fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, is a modest Chevrolet of five years’ vintage. “It is one of the smallest Chevys that they make.”
Similarly, billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet has also touted his modest lifestyle. Also, Sam Walton - the founder of Walmart - was well known for driving to work in an ordinary pickup truck.
Sam Walton's 1979 Ford F150 Custom pickup
However, a little digging reveals a distinctly different story. According to James O’Brien, a political consultant who formerly published the Campaigns & Elections magazine, Sanders is not only a socialist, he is also a millionaire.
Analyzing Sanders and his second wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, O’Brien looked at the couple’s financial disclosure report and found that they can boast a net worth of between $1.2 to $1.5 million, rather than the $700,000 or less that is reported by establishment media.
As a U.S. Senator, Sanders earns $174,000 each year. In addition, members of Congress have access to a private health club, doctors, beauticians and barbers and gift shops. On Sanders' financial disclosure form, his real estate assets were not disclosed, nor his Senate salary. According to campaign spokesman Michael Briggs, Sanders owns at least two homes, one in Vermont and one on Capitol Hill.
Sanders reported in his 2012 Senate personal financial disclosure that he owns a joint rental property in Burlington VT valued at $100,001-$250,000, for which he received $5,001-$15,000 in income. Also in 2012, he reporting a 30-year mortgage of $50,001-$100,000 for a condominum in Washington, D.C., dating from 2000.
Sanders also receives an annual pension payment of $5,000 from his time serving as Burlington mayor. He donated all royalties from his 2011 book, “The Speech,” to charity, as well as an $850 appearance fee on political comedian Bill Maher’s HBO show, for a total of $1,867. Jane Sanders reported undisclosed compensation from two Vermont state boards. Sanders’ most recent Senate disclosure indicated that both of those were more than $1,000.
The candidate’s wife, Jane, has been accused of federal bank fraud and left her position as president of Burlington College under a cloud in 2010. A generous severance package from the university added to the couple’s fortune.
Attorney Brady C. Toensing of the diGenova & Toensing law firm filed a complaint
on January 10 with federal authorities requesting an investigation into alleged federal bank fraud committed by Jane Sanders. The complaint was sent to U.S. Attorney Eric S. Miller for the District of Vermont as well as Fred W. Gibson, Jr., the acting Inspector General with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The Sanders campaign was dismissive of the complaint, saying it is "recycled, discredited garbage" from the GOP.
Toensing cited reports from VTDigger
- a Vermont watchdog group - and media to support his claim that Jane Sanders, who was president of Burlington College, won approval for the loan using her “political clout" despite a lack of donations. Toensing is vice-chairman of the Vermont Republican Party. In 2015, he issued a separate campaign-finance complaint against Attorney General Bill Sorrell, a Democrat. A state investigation into Sorrell is due this month.
Sanders' campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said of Toensing's most recent complaint, "As Bernie gains in national polls showing him defeating Republican presidential candidates, it is not surprising that Republican operatives are slinging mud at him and his family."
An article at the Tax Foundation
website indicates that the defintion of a millionaire is a debated topic. The website said:
"And while the political discourse frequently treats millionaires as monolithic, the data indicates that millionaire status appears to be fleeting or episodic. People rarely report million-dollar incomes consistently year after year because many of them become 'millionaires' as the result of a one-time event such as the sale of a business or stock. Thus, it is likely that the taxpayers who reported $1 million or more in income in 2009 are not the same people who filed million-dollar returns in previous years."
By this defintion, someone who inherits a farm or other such property might be fleetingly defined as a millionaire for one year. Latter years may not produce million-dollar returns from such property.