In light of yesterday’s announcement that Senator Olympia Snowe will not be seeking reelection, Donald Sussman’s recent purchase of an ownership stake in the MaineToday Media/ Portland Press Herald papers becomes significantly more menacing. His wife, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, will likely seek Snowe’s seat, and this casts an appalling shadow on the newspaper deal.
The writers for the Portland Press Herald are represented by the union that sought and secured millions from Sussman as part of the deal. This means the people who will cover this senate race are in a business arrangement with the candidate’s spouse. But it gets worse.
Sussman has been the major funder of the gay marriage initiatives in Maine. Gay marriage is on the ballot for referendum this fall. Sussman has been the major funder of Pingree’s political career. Pingree will likely be running in a competitive race for Snowe’s seat this fall. And who will likely step in to the race to replace Chellie Pingree in the first congressional district?
Her daughter, former Maine Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree.
The Pingree/Sussman team is a ruthless political machine. They have broken campaign finance laws, skirted House Ethics rules, and have been under investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Chellie Pingree has stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and condemned fat-cat Wall Street financiers who fly on private jets, and then almost literally walked out the door and onto the private jet of a Wall Street financier. There is no moral or ethical center in the Pingree world. So while others may find the purchase of a newspaper too heavy-handed and obvious a move on the way to political ascendancy, the Pingree/Sussman team wouldn’t give it a second thought.
There is absolutely no way the Portland Press Herald and the rest of the MaineToday Media papers can be considered to have any credibility at this point. The slow collapse of this once-proud media empire has been accelerated.
The editors and writers of the Portland Press Herald need to take a long look in the mirror today to decide whether they’re prepared to become full-time political activists, and abandon the tenets of journalism that led them into this career. The decision is not a financial one either – this move by Pingree and Sussman will ultimately mean the death of the Portland Press Herald. It may not happen tomorrow, but the people of this state are not stupid, and the notion that the spouse of a candidate will not impact the coverage of these races is ridiculous.
The people of this state will not stand by and be used as the personal pull-toy of a hedge fund baron and his power-hungry family. The backlash against them is growing, and the senate seat that Pingree has been panting over since she got creamed by Susan Collins in 2002 may now be permanently imperiled because of this blindly ambitious newspaper maneuver.
But don’t expect that to stop her.