Bernie Sanders Accused Of Using Government To Target Company That Ran Political Ad Against Him

Molly Prince | Politics Reporter

The office of Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is being accused of wielding its political power in order to seek retribution against a Vermont business owner who ran an ad attacking Sanders over his hypocrisy.

Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee, the CEO of St. Albans-based gasoline distributor and retailer R.L. Vallee, is alleging that Sanders and his senior press adviser, Daniel McLean, conspired against the business owner by drumming up a class-action lawsuit, according to federal court documents.

Vallee, who owns more than 45 gas stations in and around Vermont, produced an anti-Sanders television advertisement that aired locally in September 2014. The advertisement criticized Sanders for lambasting “the rich” over receiving tax breaks and golden parachutes, while his wife Jane Sanders received a $200,000 golden parachute after her involvement in a land deal helped to bankrupt Burlington College while she was president.

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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. (RELATED: Bernie Sanders Calls To Fight Corruption Despite Wife’s Corruption Case)

Former Assistant Vermont Attorney General Ryan Kriger was one of the officials who met with Bernie Sanders and McLean. His hand recorded notes during the meeting noted that the office of the attorney general should “bring [a] case [against Vallee] just to make a point,” reported Seven Days, an independent Vermont newspaper. It is not clear whether Bernie Sanders or McLean originally made the comment.

Following the meeting, McLean sent correspondence to Kriger multiple times inquiring whether or not former Vermont Attorney General (AG) Bill Sorrell would take legal action against Vallee.

Sorrell ultimately declined to pursue any legal action, however, just over a year later, two law firms filed a $100 million class-action lawsuit against R.L. Vallee and three other companies alleging anti-competitive practices. In the months following Bernie Sanders and McLeans’ meeting with the AG’s office, and leading up to the filing, McLean corresponded with attorneys at both law firms involved in the lawsuit, some of which was via his personal email account.

Vallee subpoenaed McLean in November seeking a deposition and access to thousands of documents from Bernie Sanders’ office. The Vermont senator’s office responded by calling the request a “fishing expedition” and argued that McLean, in his official capacity as a federal employee, could not be subpoenaed.

Vallee’s attorneys fired back Thursday claiming that by asserting sovereign immunity “it strains credulity that Mr. McLean’s official duties as a press aide for a United States Senator” included “attempting to persuade the [Federal Trade Commission] or Vermont Attorney General’s Office to bring a public enforcement action against Vermont companies” and “coordinating with Washington, D.C.-based counsel to develop a private, class-action litigation against Vermont constituents (‘just to make a point’).”

Vallee has helped to elect Republican politicians by fundraising hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was appointed the position of U.S. ambassador to Slovakia by former President George W. Bush in 2005.

Bernie Sanders’ office did not return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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