Sanders admits campaign paid family members


MONTPELIER — Rep. Bernard Sanders' wife Jane was paid about $30,000 from 2002 to 2004 for work on his campaigns, while his stepdaughter Carina Driscoll got about $65,000 over a five-year period ending last year, a Sanders aide said Wednesday. Jeff Weaver, chief of staff to the Vermont independent, provided those totals amid reports Tuesday that about four dozen members of Congress had hired family members to work on their campaigns or with political action committees. The issue arose as questions were raised about the ethics of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose wife and daughter had been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 for work on his political action and campaign committees. Such payments are not illegal, but some watchdog groups say they raise questions about nepotism. "It's a form of self-dealing, and anytime you're involved with self-dealing, questions are going to be raised," said Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based campaign finance watchdog group. Weaver argued that both Jane O'Meara Sanders and her daughter Carina were well-qualified for the work they did. "Both Jane and Carina are widely respected for their work in politics and public service in Vermont," he said. Mrs. Sanders worked as a media buyer — the person who places campaign ads on television and radio in 2002 and 2004 and did some other consulting for the campaign in 2002. Media buyers typically earn a commission of about 15 percent of the cost of placing an ad. In 2004, Jane Sanders earned about $11,000 for about $70,000 in media buys, Weaver said. In 2002, Sanders took commissions of about $14,500 for media buys of about $98,000, Weaver said. She earned an additional $4,800 for other consulting to the campaign. Driscoll worked in several capacities for Sanders' campaigns from 2000 through 2004, earning a total of about $65,000. She maintained mailing lists, prepared Federal Election Commission reports and performed other tasks. Her highest income for any of those years was about $20,400 in 2003, Weaver said. Jane O'Meara Sanders worked in her husband's congressional office for about six years during the 1990s, four of them as chief of staff. She did not take a salary for that work. Chiefs of staff typically earn between $120,000 and $150,000 a year. The Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer carried a story about the payments on Wednesday, Vermont Republican Party Chairman James Barnett said he smelled hypocrisy. "I think Bernie Sanders needs to be held to the same standard that the left is holding Congressman DeLay to," he said. "If it's wrong when Congressman DeLay does it then it's wrong when Congressman Sanders does it." Barnett said he could not identify any instances of Sanders criticizing DeLay over his campaign hiring family members. "I'm not sure if he has or not," Barnett said. DeLay's ethics have been questioned more intensely on several other fronts. His troubles began last fall, when three political fund-raisers with ties to him were indicted in his home state of Texas. Then the House ethics committee admonished him, not once but three times. Since then, questions have been raised about whether he knew about the dubious sources of money behind trips he took to Britain and South Korea.

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