Sussman Bans GOP Leadership from Press Herald, Kennebec Journal

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By Rep. Phil Curtis

Maine House Majority Leader Phil Curtis originally submitted this piece to the Maine Today Media for publication. The papers refused to run it based on its criticism of the paper’s owner and his spouse. This is an amazing act of political censorship, and ironically reinforces the concerns Rep. Curtis outlines in this piece. The entire, unedited column is featured below.

What do you get for the congresswoman who has everything?  Southern Maine’s Democratic congresswoman, Chellie Pingree, recently received the gift of a lifetime from her husband, hedge fund mogul Donald Sussman.

It wasn’t diamonds or pearls.  It wasn’t a new jet, a yacht or any other favorite trinket of the “one percenters.” It wasn’t pretty, fun or even profitable, but it definitely helped her career.

It was her very own chain of newspapers.

Donald Sussman recently bought a 75-percent ownership stake in Maine Today Media, the company that owns the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal (Augusta) and the Morning Sentinel (Waterville).  These are three of the five largest newspapers in the state.

Democrats routinely decry the influence that big corporations and big money hold over our political process.  How hypocritical it is to see two of their standard-bearers—the congresswoman who is a leader in the “progressive caucus” and her husband who is one of the largest patrons of Democratic causes in the country—use their money to infiltrate the institutions that give Maine people their news.

Sussman pledges to stay out of any editorial decisions the newspapers make.  I have news for Donald:  buying a newspaper is an editorial decision.  No matter how much Donald says outwardly that he wants his new media outlets to be unbiased, bias will be inherent and intractable.  Journalism ethics expert Bob Steele called Sussman’s ownership a legitimate concern.

Whenever negative news about Congresswoman Pingree or the legion of liberal activist groups that Sussman bankrolls comes out, the editorial staff at Maine Today Media will undoubtedly ponder—even if only for a moment—the reception their reporting will receive when it reaches Sussman’s doorstep or his laptop screen.

In the 2010 election cycle, the Portland Press Herald endorsed Dean Scontras for Congress, the Republican challenger to Pingree.  What would the result have been if Pingree and her husband owned 75 percent of the newspaper?  A disclaimer would not have sufficed.

In recent news stories, the Maine Today papers have been sheepishly disclosing their new ownership.  Instead of the customary disclaimer at the end of a story whenever a conflict exists, the writers have been surreptitiously slipping the fact that Sussman controls the paper into the body of the story.  The “disclaimers” stand out as patchwork solutions to the massive conflict that can never go away as long as Sussman and Pingree own the newspapers.  They are mere Band-Aids on the severed artery of honest reporting in Maine.

Furthermore, what does Sussman see in the ailing newspapers?  Everyone knows that newspapers are a dying breed and that the Internet is quickly rendering them obsolete. Their stock, consequently, is going nowhere but down.  In 1998, the Gannett family, longtime owners of the newspapers, sold them to the company that owns The Seattle Times for $213 million.  Ten years later, they were sold to Maine Today Media for an undisclosed price.  Sussman picked up his 75 percent stake for only $3.3 million, giving the chain a value of $4.4 million.

Maybe he sees something in the papers.  But Sussman is not a Warren Buffett-style investor.  He doesn’t follow a model of buying fundamentally sound companies at good bargains and turning them around over time.  His style has been to earn fast money through complex financial deals, similar to the kind of seat-of-your-pants investing that crashed the housing market.

So maybe he wants to finally settle down in Maine and build something for a change.  Why then would he not want to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business?

One thing I know about Mainers is that you won’t pull wool over their eyes.  They know a shady deal when they see one, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is a shady deal if I ever saw one.

Representative Phil Curtis (R-Madison) is the Majority Leader in the Maine House of Representatives.

1 COMMENT

  1. Absolutely no surprise that MTM would refuse to run this. MTM IS now state run media, with Pingree and Sussman being the state. This will only get worse.

  2. This is just the beginning of how, this paper will handle criticism, and other stories. Why should we expect anything different? We shouldn’t it is what it is.  Chellie Pingree’s husband practically owns it at 75%.  Perhaps it time for those folks in the area, to subscribe to the Bangor Daily News.  It’s all down hill with this so-called newspaper.
    http://www.ourstory.com/larrytdoughty/

  3.  The solution is to stop buying the rags. They were all biased to begin with but all pretense of an independent press is now gone.  It is his paper he can print anything he wants to…or doesn’t want to.

  4. Now, how will PPH readers get THIS news?  
    I forward The Maine Wire to everyone I can, in hopes they will like it and forward it. 
    I hope my fellow posters will do the same.

  5. Sussman buying the MTM was not about a traditional investment. It is a campaign donation of sorts to benefit Pingree and Obama.
    I’m sure he doesn’t care what happens to the company after the election if he and Sir Golfsalot win.

  6. “His style has been to earn fast money through complex financial deals,”

    Mainly short sales. Sussman bets on a company losing money. If a complany fails altogether, all the better for him. Hedge funds are unregualted, too.

  7.  “Maine Today Media” also owns “Central Maine Newspapers”, publisher of the Morning Sentinel in Waterville; the Kennebec Journal in Augusta; and Maine Community Publications, which publishes The Coastal Journal, a community newspaper serving the Bath-Brunswick area.The daily Press Herald circulates six days per week in five counties: Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and York. On Sundays, the Maine Sunday Telegram is sold statewide. Richard Connor bought all this in mid-2009.
    Gallows HUMOR from WIKI :
    After Connor bought MTM, “the paper (PPH) MOVED SHARPLY TO THE RIGHT (lol), causing some in relatively liberal Portland to abandon the paper in favor of the city’s free daily, The Portland Daily Sun, or for the Bangor Daily News, which made inroads into the Portland market.”After only a year and half, Connor left at the end of 2011.

  8. All the libs that populate maine from porkland south can’t carry the state.  The sussman-pingreedy media is trying to censor the real news to enhance their position. 

    Sad day for Maine when we have a billionaire from away (conn)  buying our political system.  How much more liberal goverment can Maine withstand before we financially and morally collapse.  I certainly hope that the Maine Wire keeps up the editorial pressure.     

  9. So MaineToday Media has a majority owner who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Equality Maine, which  promotes gay marriage. I was fired from MTM for standing up for traditional marriage. It all fits, doesn’t it?

  10. Nice piece – but I’m so SHOCKED!!!!!

    Seriously, here’s something I routinely post on their sites when they use that weasel-worded “disclaimer”:

    CORRECTION: Shouldn’t your in-story disclaimer read:
    “She is married to S. Donald Sussman, a Wall Street Billionaire (top 1% of the 1%!!), chief illegal funder of Pingree’s election campaigns and go-to money man for every liberal crackpot issue in Maine. Sussman now owns 75% of this newspaper, and all reporters and editors will never criticize Rep Pingree or ANY liberal out of fear of immediate termination of our employment. News sources under Mr. Sussman’s domineering control include the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.”
    How’s THAT for accuracy in Media?????????????

  11. Share this story on your facebook page! Spread the word just what the democrtats are doing! Dont let this ass get away with this!

  12. Hmm.  So let me get this straight.  Mr. Curtis doesn’t see anything “valuable” in the largest chain of newspapers in Maine, ergo, Sussman must have bought them for his wife, the Congresswoman.  You know, I am not terribly surprised that MTM didn’t run this, either.  Silly and ineffectual though the papers are now (but improving with Colin Woodard on board), they never, in my experience, published libel.  Maybe if Mr. Curtis wrote something worth publishing, the chain would print them.  He’s also welcome to submit nonlibelous material to the New Maine Times; we’d publish his work.  But none of this insinuendo crap.

  13. The Wall Street Journal, in any story mentioning Fox News, the Fox TV network, Fox movie studio, or any productions of any News Corp. enterprise, mentions in the story that the paper is owned by News Corp. It is in the story itself usually, but sometimes in a disclaimer at the end of the story, depending on what the story is about.

  14. Gina,
    Seemed worthwhile to me. “Maybe  if Mr. Cutris wrote something worth publishing…”  Are you advocating censoring or merely expressing your opinion?

  15. perhaps the sussman-pingreedy-barney frank news would be more fittiing of their editorial policy. 

  16. Phil Curtis submitted a political editorial.  An extremely biased and  unsolicited one.

    Does he expect cheese with his whine???

  17.  I’m saying that this constitutes libel, Uncle. There is no evidence
    that Sussman is doing anything other than what he said he was going to
    do, which is be the money man and leave the editorial direction to the
    editorial staff. The New Maine Times has some concerns about the
    potential ethical dilemma the editorial staff is in; you can read it
    for yourself at http://www.newmainetimes.org. But it is a far cry from
    expressing concern that the largest newspaper in the state might feel
    some undue influence in the future, and stating baldly, as Curtis does,
    that there is ALREADY undue influence, and that the failure of the
    paper to publish a sensationalized insinuendo (which neither the BDN
    nor the SJ would have published, based on solid journalistic
    standards). What Curtis did was libel, and no newspaper in the state
    would have printed that.

  18. Oh and by the way, Angus King and Chellie Pingree go way back since both are flaming liberals, oh yeah and ONE PERCENTERS as well LOL! Let’s see how “unbiased” the papers will be when the November election gets closer. Republicans get ready for quite a fight getting your message out, for Angus will surely get a pass especially when it comes to the obama stimulus money he sucked up for “innovative green energy NOT” which was under congressional investigation into his wind business and the sudden sale of his share of the company to his partner Gardner, (three days after he found out he was being investigated)his old buddy from MPBN. Oh the web we weave…….

  19.  What portion of the piece from Curtis, in your opinion, is libel, and actionable?

    I don’t see it, frankly. Pingree is a public figure, for which the libel standards are more lenient. Sussman is a public figure, at least for limited purposes, although he holds no elected office (thank God).

    The Curtis piece is certainly critical of the Pingree/Sussman ownership of the MTM publications, but his speculation is opinion.

    When we cannot voice speculation and opinion about our elected officials and prominent, wealthy public figures who have a direct interest in politics, we are in very deep kinshee.

  20.  Sounds that way to me, Larry. Maybe you should make a new application to the MTM papers, and see what happens.  Please let the Maine Wire know the results.

    Surely, if the new Sussman MTM wants to prove their neutrality and non-partisan claims, they will gladly entertain your application for employment, and speedily give you an interview.

  21. Well put.  I can’t help but wonder if there are any other media outlets owned by ( if only through marriage) members of Congress?  As usual, Pingree comes forth as the hypocrit that she has always been.  Don’t expect any changes now that is a member of the ruling elite.

  22. Since when does the First Amendment come with a clause that says “no bias allowed, and only solicited opinion is acceptable”?

    The MTM has a right to print what they please, but I see letters to the editor in the MTM papers every day that fit your criteria — only they’re from the liberal side of the aisle.

    The MTM should have published Curtis’s letter, and then written a rebuttal. That would have been the professional response, and a strategic move. Instead, they now look like pikers.

  23. So ‘The Wire’ will publish my ‘Rants’ as they do M.D. Harmon’s on their site??   ROTFLMFAO!!!!

    And  unlike the MTM – we are prevented from knowing who has financial stakes in the MHPC.

    Like anything the MTM ever could do would change your opinion of them.

  24. Do we get any ‘disclosures’ from the MHPC as to who donates $$$ to make ‘The Wire’ possible??

    Are you out of your freaking mind!!!!

  25. 1)  You’re already publishing your “rants” on the Maine Wire. Ipso Facto.

    2) The MHPC isn’t owned by the spouse of a sitting CongressCritter. When that changes, I’m sure they’ll let you know.

    3) I used to have a favorable opinion of the MTM. That has changed over the last few years, as the ownership and the political slant has done likewise.

    They are more than welcome to start acting like a real newspaper again, thereby encouraging a reverse to my opinion.

    Publishing the Curtis Op/ed piece would have been a worthy start to that endeavor.

  26. There was no libel in that column (at least no more that what Bill Nemitz publishes on a weekly basis).

    “Libel” is a term thrown around loosely, but real libel occurs only when it can be legally proven that something published has caused actual harm to a person. Usually, this refers to financial damage. Would this column have caused financial harm to Pingree’s pocketbook or Sussman’s savings?

    Something you see as snarky or offensive or “untruthful” (again, see Nemitz) is not libel, especially when it comes to public figures. Maine’s newspapers print this kind of “libel” every day.

    As for “solid journalistic standards,” save that lecture for the PPH, BDN and SJ. They put those standards in their rearview mirror a long. long time ago. They reap what they sow.

  27. I’m saying that this constitutes libel, Uncle. There is no evidence that Sussman is doing anything other than what he said he was going to do, which is be the money man and leave the editorial direction to the editorial staff. The New Maine Times has some concerns about the potential ethical dilemma the editorial staff is in; you can read it for yourself at http://www.newmainetimes.org. But it is a far cry from expressing concern that the largest newspaper in the state might feel some undue influence in the future, and stating baldly, as Curtis does, that there is ALREADY undue influence, and that the failure of the paper to publish a sensationalized insinuendo (which neither the BDN nor the SJ would have published, based on solid journalistic standards). What Curtis did was libel, and no newspaper in the state would have printed that.

  28.  MHPC isn’t owned by someone whose spouse is a sitting CongressCritter.

    MHPC is a privately-owned corporation, which has no legal obligation to disclose their donations, nor the donors.

  29. 1)  I’m commenting.  But we can see if they will publish a piece.  Want to take bets???

    2)  We have no idea who funds the MHPC.  They won’t divulge any facts.

    3)  I used to be a ‘Conservative’ when it was unpopular to do so – then I found out how much of the philosophy and practice was pure bullshit.

  30.  I don’t make bets with anonymous people who have proven to be less than credible.

    The MHPC has no obligation to disclose their revenue sources.

    Your comment about conservatism is irrelevant.

  31. Interesting as there was an article in the NYT yesterday on this very subject.  It mentioned Sussman.

     http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/business/media/the-return-of-the-newspaper-barons.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=sussman&st=cse&gwh=5D3241C3B7969ECDAC040E8C70814096

  32. MHPC may not have an ‘Obligation’ – yet they cry for ‘ethics?’ Try practicing what they preach.

    Anonymous people who have proven…

    Now there’s a logical fallacy.  But you’re the ‘Mistress’ of those, Naran; along with your own irrelevancy.

  33. Gina, the owners choose who will be the publisher.  The publisher has the most say over who gets to be editors.
    (You see where I’m going with this, don’t you…) 
    I’m going to suggest that you get a little more realistic.

  34. Not surprised! When Susseman got involved with the Maine Today Media I knew we were in trouble. Just another way the liberals control the news. ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC are all in bed together.  If you don’t watch or read other avenues of news, you’re in the dark, like most liberal followers.

  35. I picked up the Bangor Daily on my way home tonight. For the time being I still subscribe to the Sentinel-at my age I hate to think I cannot get reliable news from the local print but then again there is not much local about it.

  36. Maine Today Media has finally caught up with Naran and her Stalin style censorship over at As Maine Goes. 

  37. Having read both the piece in question and the subsequent feedback, this wins the award for Naive Comment of the Day.

  38. It is truly odd that the MaineWire is outraged that the Portland Press Herald didn’t publish a piece by Republican Rep. Phil Curtis when it scrubs thoughtful comments from it’s own readers who disagree with a piece it is promoting.

    The conclusion that that the Curtis article was rejected because of the critical content is pure speculation.

    Now. why have my comments suddenly started to disappear from MaineWire? They are well reasoned and intended to highlight points of disagreement not merely applaud or belittle.

  39. EllronS writes:  “Progressives are desparate.  They don’t even hide it anymore.”

    –  If you are going to invent a new word disparate from desperate, at least have the common decency to tell us what you mean by it.

  40. You like that word ‘flaming’ – Stargazer….  Gives you that warm, fuzzy, tinker-belle feeling…..

  41. Aw,Sea Dog Riml,you don’t really mean that,do you?
    If I went out and enlisted would that make you feel better.
    Do you even personally KNOW any conservatives? If you do,that just shows you what tolerant and kind people we are,but underneath….we do not suffer fools gladly.
    Don’t let the foolcatcher getcha today!

  42. Is this your only strategy? Sounds pretty lame. Repurblicans had a chance to buy the paper at the same time Connors did. Why didn’t their OnePercenters jump on the opportunity back then?  Why? Because they have no interest in fair and balanced reporting either.

    Mainers will soon tire of these partisan rants. Rabid right wingers will go on in oblivion to reality and real solutions.

  43. How is that odd?  That they ran a column critical of the buyout a month and a half ago?  Take any small issue and look at how many columns are published by MTM in support of the liberal position.  Why wouldn’t they publish two on this one over the course of 6 weeks or so? 

    Furthermore, there is an important difference in content that distinguishes the two pieces.  The Katz column was correct in pointing out the indirect pressure the MTM editors probably feel, but it didn’t go so far as this piece, which said what everyone else was thinking: that it looks like Sussman bought the papers expressly to further his wife’s political career. 

  44. Picking at straws here Seadog, please where are all the Liberals crying for the “1st Amendment ” That is what I want to know….Geesh!

  45. Anyone with any common sense knew from the initial report of Chellie Pingree’s husband, S. Donald Sussman’s so-called 5% stake that it would not be stopping there.  He will claim bankruptcy of the papers, after they have served his purpose for his marriage of convenience( which I propose was not made in heaven–anyone betting on a detailed pre-nup here?), but was entered into in order to have influence over this year’s presidential election and to overthrow our state’s legislature this year and governor in 2014.  Also, the critical- to- liberals vote on same-sex marriage is part of the game plan.

  46. No Kenneth, they didn’t buy it because it was a bad investment. It still is. Which begs the question, why Sussman and why now?

  47. Agreed KRC, you are correct, Sussman bought this media for the one fact of when the 2012 election came, he had his Liberal hand in helping Obama by swaying the media distributed within Maine, Sounds like a lot to pay for but for a man that this is chump change, it was well wroth the finacial loss.  Kenneth there is only one side in most media, including some right winged media. There are very few that see both sides.  Unfortunatley you are making yourself look ignorant to that fact by your responses.

  48. Oh look, the government in Maine trying to disparage a business in Maine. It is all about the jobs, eh?  Are the republicans here just sad because FOX didn’t buy it?   Perhaps they want the wire-taps here in Maine?

  49. Let me explain something to the folks at MaineWire who liken themselves to “journalists”:

    All you have to do is pick up the phone and call for a comment. That’s what I did, and so received this response from Cliff Schechtman, Executive Editor of the PPH:

    MaineToday Media has not banned opinion pieces from legislators of either party or independents. We welcome all thoughtful commentary and will publish it as we deem appropriate.

    See how easy that was. Of course, this assumes that you care about facts.

  50. Will this publication publish an opinion piece (free ad) against itself that is depicting it as evil?  Just making sure that all the D’s in Maine will have their voice heard if they start writing “articles” like the one that poor politician Curtis didn’t get printed.  Obviously he isn’t worried about jobs at those newspapers.  It is capitalism when you boycott them, but not when the paper decides that going after Pingree via the newspaper is shallow and not worthy of printing?

  51. Statement from MTM:
    “MaineToday Media has not banned opinion pieces from legislators of either party or independents. We welcome all thoughtful commentary and will publish it as we deem appropriate.”

    Newspapers receive many unsolicited opinion pieces, and between those and the ones that they request, editors must choose which to publish. Space is a concern, but so is not repeating what has already been said.
    The staff at the MaineWire, including its head, Lance Dutson, have proven once again that they have little or no understanding about the business of newspapers, nor how journalism works. Had they simply called the editors at MTM they would have a received an explanation for why the opinion piece by Curtis was rejected.
    But the MaineWire isn’t interested in journalism. The people there only want to smear anything they find objectionable with lies, innuendos, and half-truths.

  52. desperate! Sorry, the Haliberton hurricane machine was throwing up so much dust, I couldn’t see the keys! Loser!

  53. Low lifes like these democrat piles ought not ever be allowed to represent anyone but criminals and fellow reprobates. Decent people actually DO exist in Maine. I know a few of them! Sussman is the garbage collector for the scummy democrats who have torn up their reasonable citizen cards and have instead embraced totalitarian THUG politics. Money moves mountains and chokes off liberty. I expect better from Maine.

  54.  Give me a break. If anyone lied here it’s Susmann and his BS “5%”.  If anything he should be bending backwards to publish things like this to show he’s neutral.  The NYT had a long piece on this very issue the other day

  55. Yup, all democrats are horrible, vile people…  Keep up the good work, Bill -and everyone who liked his post.  The conservative-radio mentality doesn’t show TOO much…. 😉  

  56. Good idea!  But, they should print it after dissecting it completely with a rebuttal after every tiny paragraph.   It would be easier to read that way.

  57. What else is there to say Phil has saifd it quite eloquently. She is a do nothing Rep. who blindly follows the Party line and has brought NOTHING of value to restoring fiscal anity andpersonal freedom to this State or Country. For her, the job is nothig more than a position that srtokes her ego and lets her act like royalty.

    Mark in Kennebunk

  58. “MTM IS now state run media, with Pingree and Sussman being the state.”

    Unfortunately, this appears to be the case.

    Thanks for the link, Fred.

  59. And you thought Pravda existed only in Russia HA! Maybe the landmark foundation or acl or some fair minded group can help us fight against censorship in Maine. REMEMBER ANGUS KING IS ONE OF THEM!!!!

  60. Has anyone wondered about the sudden marriage of convenience between pingree who was under investigation for ethics violations for taking freebie jet rides from Sussman at the time of their marriage?? I often wondered about Sussman due to his avid support of gays and the millions he has given to gay causes. Can anyone say (just maybe) closet gay? Just thinking out loud here.

  61. Here’s another item of interest – the Maine today media outsources its customer service to a call center in Honduras. I placed a call about a delivery issue and got the information first hand from the Hispanic customer service rep. When I went to an editorial comment about it, they refused to publish it. Hen I asked why, I was told that the newspaper doesn’t talk about it’s own outsourcing. Pretty freakin typical…..

  62. I go out of my way to never buy any of their papers. Make a list of advertisers and refuse to purchase their goods and services. Commerce or loss there of, speaks louder then words…

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