Vermont's Independent Senator — and former progressive presidential candidate — Bernie Sanders is being sued over claims that he used his own political clout to punish a local businessman who ran an attack ad against Sanders.
The Daily Caller reports that "Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee, the CEO of St. Albans-based gasoline distributor and retailer R.L. Vallee," is suing Sanders for trying to put his company out of business after Vallee paid for an ad about Sanders' "golden parachute" — a $200,000 retirement deal that his wife struck with her former employer (which she was, at one time, accused of mismanaging), Burlington College.
In response, Vallee alleges, Sen. Bernie Sanders suddenly became very interested in the price of gasoline, and whether certain gasoline retailers were inflating the price of fuel beyond what the Federal Trade Commission had prescribed. When Sanders failed to convince a government body to take action on the issue, he and a key staff member moved on to the Vermont attorney general's office.
"The Vermont senator’s office called the ad 'pathetic' and referred to Vallee as a 'junior varsity version of the Koch brothers.' Only a week later, Bernie Sanders and McLean allegedly sat down with members of the Vermont attorney general’s office where the duo broached suspicion that Vallee’s company was participating in price-fixing," the Caller reported.
When that didn't work, either, Vallee alleges, Sanders and McLean tried to drum up support for "a $100 million class-action lawsuit against R.L. Vallee and three other companies alleging anti-competitive practices."
According to Vallee, Sanders would never have concerned himself with the price of gasoline in Vermont had Vallee not been behind an ad Sanders happened not to like.
Sanders' team called the lawsuit a "fishing expedition."
Although he seems like a pretty mild-mannered guy (during the campaign, of course, he was well known for being friendly to all of the Earth's creatures, including wayward birds, who kept landing on his speech podiums), Bernie Sanders has been surprisingly controversial since ending his presidential campaign.
Aside from this lawsuit and his purchase of a third home (for his beach vacations), Sanders' wife, Jane, was the subject of an extended federal investigation into a land deal she made while running Burlington College.
"In 2010, she had worked out a $10 million deal for the college to buy 32 acres of waterfront land in Burlington on Lake Champlain and a 77,000-square-foot former orphanage and administrative offices of Vermont’s Roman Catholic Church, which needed the money to settle a series of priest sex abuse cases," the Washington Times reported in 2017. "Jane Sanders, a longtime political adviser to her husband, promised at the time that the deal would be paid for with increases in enrollment and about $2.7 million in donations."
Those "enrollments" never materialized, and the college was left in debt when Sanders departed.
Bernie Sanders says he is considering a second run at the presidency and will decide whether to throw his hat in the ring in early 2019. His chances of winning a Democratic primary are, according to the latest polls, much lower than in 2016, when he was the only progressive candidate. Now, he'll compete against a bevy of left-leaning lawmakers, if he's allowed to compete at all — the DNC is considering disqualifying Sanders from running as a Democrat unless he officially changes his party affiliation from "independent."