What happened to those $ millions from the Bernie Sanders campaign?
For those who want to get rich off of politics, the surest racket is to become the media buyer for a major campaign. For the underwhelming task of actually buying television airtime and print space, one receives a huge commission of 15%. If a campaign spends ten million bucks on television advertising, the buyer gets a million and a half.
For the Bernie Sanders campaign, which raised over $90 million, who received this generous bounty? In the VTDigger, a CPA named Don Kellan looked into the question. (hat tip: Clarice Feldman)
If there is anyone reading this column who might have donated $5, $10 or $25 to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, you may want to take note of what goes on at a house at 4507 Penwood Drive, Alexandria, Virginia.
The 1988 vintage, 2,700-square-foot, $550,000 house, located on a cul-de-sac in a subdivision just off a major highway, is also the legal address for a media company that was created on April 8, 2014, Old Towne Media LLC. It is not clear as to who actually owns Old Towne Media LLC, but what is clear is that it is located in Shelli Hutton-Hartig’s home. Working out of the home alongside Hutton-Hartig is Barbara Abar Bougie. Both are very close friends of Jane O’Meara Sanders. Collectively, they were responsible for close to $90 million in revenue that came to the company from the Sanders presidential campaign.
In essence, it was the job of Hutton-Hartig and Bougie, acting through Old Towne Media LLC to redistribute a substantial portion of the $90 million plus to newspapers, TV/radio stations, and Internet outlets. The money was to pay for the promotion of the Vermont senator’s presidential campaign message. The key words here are “substantial portion.”
According to recent reports and reports as far back as April of this year in VTDigger, The Washington Post and Slate Magazine, “substantial portion” amounts to approximately $76.5 million or about 85 percent of the funds transferred to Old Towne Media LLC. It is generally accepted that the company placing the ads retains 15 percent as a commission.
So who owns Old Towne media? Nobody knows.
This raises an awkward question:
…why did his campaign officials feel that it was necessary to place the funds with a company, not two years in business, with no employees, working out of a private residence in Alexandria, Virginia? According to the 2016/17 Vermont Business Directory, there are 62 long-established advertising/media firms in Vermont. Were any of them given an opportunity to do the ad placements? Also, did his campaign use Vermont banks for the depositories of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in campaign contributions?
There must be a motive to go out on a limb with an inexperienced company. Maybe the owner has some relationship with the two employees? As Jane Sanders does….
Kellan is also concerned about the balance of the funds leftover from the campaign (90 million minus the 76.5 million spent with OTM):
Another question is who will be the recipients of the millions of dollars of commissions still left in the company now that the campaign has come to an end? Legally, the balance does not have to be returned to the campaign’s accounts in that it has been earned by Old Towne Media LLC.
So, does Jane Sanders own Old Towne Media? If she does, that would explain how Bernie and Jane were able to spend more than their reported net worth on a third home.
With socialist leaders, you can’t be cynical enough.