Bernie Sanders’ campaign surrogate, Amer Zahr, declined to discuss with Fox & Friends on Thursday allegations made by Peter Schweizer, author of New York Times bestseller Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America’s Progressive Elite. Schweizer recently spoke to the network about Sanders’ (I-VT) history of steering campaign and taxpayer money to his family.
Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy mentioned Schweizer’s previous appearance on the show, noting that “a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters may not realize that Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane, he says, has profited from media buys during the campaign.”
“When Bernie was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, one of the first things he did, Steve, is put his then-girlfriend, later wife, on the payroll,” Schweizer told Doocy in an interview on Fox & Friends on Wednesday. “The city council objected and said, ‘You can’t do this.’ Bernie ignored them, and that began this pattern of steering money, taxpayer money, and campaign money, to his family.”
“It’s a major problem for Bernie — this gap between the image he portrays and the reality of how he actually conducts his own affairs,” the Breitbart News senior contributor and Government Accountability Institute president added.
When Doocy questioned him about this, Zahr dismissed the story as irrelevant to the current debate and questioned Schweizer’s work.
“First of all, I think it’s talking about things that happened in the ’80s, not things that’s happening now,” Zahr said. “We’re talking about an upstart campaign back in the ’80s that it was probably a family-run campaign.”
“I didn’t read his book. I don’t plan on reading his book,” he said, accusing Schweizer of specializing in “right-wing hit pieces” and stating that “reputable news sources” have dismissed his writings as “riddled with errors and inaccuracies.”
“I don’t really want to get into too much debate,” Zahr then said.
As Breitbart News reported, Profiles in Corruption contains 1,126 endnotes and zero unnamed sources, deriving the information from “hard evidence and documents, including: foreign and domestic corporate and legal records, tax liens, lobbyist disclosures, property records, White House visitor logs, federal bankruptcies, and federal criminal trial records.”
As Schweizer explained in Profiles in Corruption, Sanders did, in fact, appoint Jane to lead the Mayor’s Youth Office upon taking office in Burlington:
It was initially a volunteer position that later became salaried. The job was never advertised so that others could apply. A local paper noted that Sanders never bothered to provide evidence as to her “qualifications” for the position. Conveniently, the Mayor’s Youth Office was under his chain of command. It was not under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Rec Department.
Jane reportedly received “a big pay increase” after they married. The financial benefits continued to blossom thereafter. Jane became a top aide for Sanders after the moved to D.C., holding a variety of positions and eventually taking a stab as a media buyer. She worked with two other media buyers, Barbara Abar Bougie and Shelli Hutton-Hartig, who were connected to the mysterious company, Old Towne Media LLC, from which $83 million of Sanders’ 2016 campaign funds flowed.
As Schweizer told Fox & Friends:
His wife set up a media buying business registered to their home in Vermont and started doing media buying for her husband’s campaign. She had no background in advertising, no background in media buying. And the dirty little secret here is, Steve, is that when you do a media buy, the buyer is entitled to a commission of 10 and 15 percent. It can be quite lucrative. … We know that at least $150,000 was funneled to Jane Sanders this way. We also found out, Steve, in a couple cases, allies of Bernie Sanders who ran for governor of Vermont in 2000 and ran for lieutenant governor in 2004 were expecting Bernie’s endorsement. Bernie didn’t give it. And there was controversy. “Why is Bernie not giving it?” They both ended up hiring Jane as their media buyer, and a couple weeks later, Bernie decided to endorse these candidates. So he clearly seems to be leveraging his position as well.
Sanders’ actions, Schweizer noted, are not “illegal,” but it does contrast with his campaign rhetoric about ending political corruption.