Vermont Republican Party vice chair Brady Toensing is leaving the state — and party leadership — for a job with the U.S. Department of Justice. He’ll be a senior counsel for its Office of Legal Policy.
Toensing had already split his time between Vermont and Washington, D.C., where he works at a law firm owned by his mother, Victoria Toensing, and step-father, Joseph diGenova. Toensing is leaving the firm and giving up his Vermont residency to live full-time in D.C.
The 51-year-old attorney declined to share additional details about his new job because the Department of Justice has strict policies governing who can publicly speak about its operations. According to the mission statement of the Office of Legal Policy, it is responsible for implementing criminal justice policies and advising the attorney general on policy matters.
In early 2016, Toensing filed a complaint with the Department of Justice seeking an investigation into Jane O’Meara Sanders, the senator’s wife, over her work while president of now-defunct Burlington College. Toensing asked officials to investigate whether she’d committed bank fraud by overstating the college’s pledged donations in a loan application.
The feds launched an investigation, and it was not until late 2018 that Jeff Weaver, speaking for the Sanders family, announced that the feds had decided not to bring charges. Weaver said Toensing’s request for an investigation had been part of a "multiyear political smear campaign against Jane Sanders."
Toensing has used public records requests repeatedly to embarrass political adversaries. He revealed a state trooper had voided a speeding ticket for former Gov. Peter Shumlin. In 2013, he represented Shumlin’s neighbor Jeremy Dodge, who claimed Shumlin had ripped him off on a land deal.
Toensing said in an interview Tuesday that Vermont Republicans need to get back to basics in order to win elections and put the state on more solid financial footing.
The party should “go to the get-out-the-vote type projects,” Toensing said. “Real fundamentals. Kind of like the movie Hoosiers, we have to go back to our fundamentals and our roots.”
“You can see what happened with this last session," he said. Democrats ultimately failed to pass legislation on two key party priorities: paid family leave and increasing the minimum wage.
Toensing, the Vermont chair of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for president, has been accused of causing a rift in the Vermont GOP between Trump-aligned conservatives like himself and GOP chair Deb Billado and more moderate Republicans such as Gov. Phil Scott.
Billado did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning.
Toensing said the claims of division are overblown.
“A lot’s made about these claims of rifts within the party," he said, "but there really is not a big rift within the party policy-wise.”