Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., transferred $75,000 from his campaign’s coffers to his wife and stepson’s nonprofit during the third quarter, Fox News Digital has found.
The money from the senator’s campaign went to the Sanders Institute on Aug. 8, according to its recently released Federal Election Commission filings. The cash follows the $200,000 that the committee sent to the nonprofit earlier this year.
The institute was established by Sanders’ wife, Jane, and his stepson, David Driscoll, six years ago as a think tank to elevate progressive mouthpieces. However, the group has appeared to perform very little work while paying Driscoll six figures worth of compensation.
“The facts present in this case and the family ties involved certainly raise legitimate concern,” Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, previously told Fox News Digital. “Obviously, a senator is not allowed to use his campaign to simply transfer large sums of money to family members – regardless of the route the dollars take.”
“While on its face, the percentage the nonprofit paid out in salary alone is not necessarily problematic, legally the issue hinges on whether the salaries were paid for bona fide services at fair market value,” Arnold said. “In other words, if the nonprofit and its executive director are truly producing work and actually earning the money, it is not illegal, but it is frowned upon. On the other hand, if nothing or very little is being done to earn the money legitimately, then it is highly likely a serious campaign finance violation has taken place.”
At its launch in 2017, Jane Sanders told the Washington Post that the institute’s purpose would revolve around revitalizing “democracy” and supporting progressive institutions.
“Our feeling is at our point in time, our country is at a crossroads and people are engaged in a political process that can be opaque,” Sanders told the publication.
“A vital democracy requires an informed electorate, civil discourse and bold thinking,” she continued. “So, we put together this team to focus on issues, but not in a partisan way, not in a way that just focuses on the latest crazy thing. It will not be about [former President Donald] Trump; it will be about the issues facing the country.”
The institute ceased its functions in 2019 as Sanders entered the Democrat presidential primary to avoid the “appearance of impropriety.” It has since quietly resumed operations.
The group’s latest publicly available tax forms from 2021 show the nonprofit disbursed nearly 40% of its contributions to salaries while seemingly performing minimal work and having rare identifiable achievements.
In 2021, the institute raised nearly $717,000 and moved $257,000 into wages, including $152,653 in salary and other compensation to Driscoll, its executive director.
That same year, the institute also reported disbursing nearly $160,000 on producing The Timeline Project, which it portrayed as a “policy-focused resource based on Bernie Sanders’ work over four decades” that would be one of the “key pilars (sic) of the website.”
They also disbursed nearly $89,000 for a news site, an equivalent amount for social media and content creation, and around $17,000 for a gathering that never occurred due to the pandemic. The most recent details for any institute gathering on its website are from 2018.
The institute, meanwhile, appears to have little to show for the funds it propelled into its projects. Its website does not appear to contain a “policy-focused resource” defined as its top program expense, and its fellows’ blog posts are primarily cross-posted from other sources. Its YouTube page uploaded just three videos this year. Its profile on X, formerly Twitter, largely pushes outside news and opinion pieces from its fellows.
The institute also reported no grants to other progressive organizations in its 2021 tax records despite saying it intends to support other like-minded institutions.
This election cycle is also not the first time Sanders’ campaign helped bolster his family’s nonprofit. In 2021, his presidential committee transferred $350,000 to the institute.
The cash accounted for nearly half of the $716,000 it raised that year when it put close to 40% of its donations toward salaries and Sanders’ stepson collected slightly more than $150,000 in pay.
Sanders’ campaign did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment on the money it sent to the institute.
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