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The Democratic primary field has winnowed significantly in recent weeks—but Bernie Sanders remains a strong contender. On the long campaign trail, he's been kept company by his spouse and close political advisor, Jane O'Meara Sanders.
Jane has been on the political trail with her husband since he declared his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic nomination in February 2019.
Bernie has described Jane as "one of my key advisors," and she is credited with helping him draft more than 50 pieces of legislation during his time in Congress.
In Bernie Sanders's long career in national politics, he's always had one steadfast proponent: his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders. And she's been a constant presence during his 2020 presidential campaign. So just who is Jane Sanders, Bernie's wife and collaborator?
Like Bernie, Jane is a native Brooklynite.
Jane was born in Brooklyn, and attended a Catholic girls' high school there before enrolling in undergrad at the University of Tennessee. She left before finishing college to have her three children with her first husband, David Driscoll, and would later receive her degree from Goddard College in Vermont.
In the 1980s, Jane worked in the Juvenile Division of the Burlington Police Department, and later as a community organizer at King Street Area Youth Center. It was during that time that she met Bernie Sanders, when he was mounting his first campaign for Burlington mayor. "I was sitting in the second row, and our eyes met, but we didn’t really talk afterwards," Jane told the Irish Times of hearing him speak on the campaign trail. "I felt it came from the heart, everything he said. He embodied everything I ever believed in."
They soon began dating, and wed in 1988. While Jane and Bernie don’t have children together, they have a blended family and consider each other’s kids their own: Heather Titus, Carina Driscoll, and Dave Driscoll from Jane’s first marriage, and Levi Sanders from Bernie’s.
During Bernie's career in congress, Jane was right by his side.
Jane worked with Bernie for years in an unofficial capacity, but once he was elected to Congress in 1990, her role increased in scope. She became her husband's chief of staff and policy advisor, although she didn't take a salary for her work.
A 1996 article in the Washington Post credited her with writing 50 pieces of legislation during her six years alongside Bernie in Washington. She also helped Bernie found the Progressive Caucus in 1991.
Her 2000s-era tenure as the president of Burlington College has come under fire.
After six years in Bernie's congressional office, Jane was offered a job as provost at Goddard College, where she'd completed her studies. "When Bernie was elected, he said, 'Bet you never thought you'd be married to a congressman,'" she told the Washington Post at the time. "The other day, I said, Bet you never thought you'd be married to a provost.'"
That lead to her job as president of Burlington College, where she worked from 2004 to 2011. Burlington shuttered in May of 2016, due to financial difficulties. The school noted in a statement at the time that it couldn't handle the "crushing weight of the debt" incurred from the purchase of a new campus—a decision made under Jane Sanders's leadership.
In 2017, news broke that the FBI and Department of Justice were investigating the real estate deal. According to the Washington Post, Burlington College's trustees said that Jane had provided false information about the amounts and timing of certain donations on documents given to a state bonding agency and a bank.
In November of 2018, the U.S. attorney's office in Vermont informed Jane that they had concluded their investigation, and would not bring charges.
Recently, Jane co-founded the Sanders Institute.
The Sanders Institute, a progressive think tank, was founded less than two years ago by Jane Sanders and her son David Driscoll. On March 15, 2019, the Institute announced that it would stop accepting donations and shut down operations, at least for the duration of Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. In a press release, Driscoll explained that "continuing our active role in policy development may create the false impression that the Institute is part of the campaign."
The organization had been criticized for blurring the line between campaigning and nonprofit work—something Bernie alleged was the case with the Clinton Foundation during the 2016 race. Jane told the New York Times that these comparisons weren't at the front of their minds. "We didn’t think about the Clinton or the Trump foundation," she said. "We just thought, I’m going to be very active [in the presidential campaign]... it’s just too mushy—it could become too mushy. We wanted to safeguard it. It’s a suspension, not a shutdown."
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