Donald Sussman donated seven times more than any other individual to leadership and caucus political action committees in last ten years, also donates to group dedicated to “reducing the influence of big money in politics”
Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, an organization dedicated in part to “reducing the influence of big money in politics” released a report today detailing millions in donations to legislative Political Action Committees (PAC’s) from what they call “heavy hitter” donors, which includes one of their own donors.
The report revealed that Donald Sussman, the owner of the Maine Today Media and husband of Maine congresswoman Chellie Pingree, is Maine’s biggest individual contributor to legislative leadership and caucus PAC’s, having given the committees $379,000 in the last ten years. This doesn’t include donations to ballot question committees, individual candidates, or political parties.
Sussman’s $379,000 is more than seven times the total of the next closest individual legislative PAC donor, Robert Bahre, who gave a total of $54,000 over the ten-year period. It also doesn’t come close to revealing the total Sussman has given to all PAC’s. Sussman’s total PAC donations in the same ten-year timeframe the study looks at total more than $3.45 million.
Perhaps more puzzling than Sussman’s well-known “heavy hitter” status as a political donor is that he is a major contributor to MCCE, the group responsible for the report that decries legislative PAC’s and their major donors for how they “distort Maine politics.”
The groups CEO, Andrew Bossie, confirmed that Sussman is “one of their largest donors,” of more than 400 individual donors Bossie says give to the group. He couldn’t recall off-hand if any other donors to the group appeared with Sussman among the state’s most prolific political donors.
Sussman has spent big time money supporting his favorite political committees, including two recent contributions sending $75,000 to the House Democrat Campaign PAC in March, and another $75,000 to the Senate Democrat Campaign PAC in April.
Other major PAC contributions by Sussman include $389,000 given to EqualityMaine PAC in 2010, $370,000 given to the anti-TABOR PAC “Citizens United for Maine’s Future” and $418,000 spent on the “Protect Maine Votes” PAC this past fall to reinstate same-day voter registration in Maine.
Bossie, who advocates for some type of restriction on the amounts people can give to these PAC’s said he was concerned about “big money” donors like Sussman being able to influence legislators with their donations.
“What’s bad is that the system allows so much big money from these people,” Bossie said. When asked if he thought it was strange to have someone who gives money to his group, which advocates for restrictions on “big money in politics,” also be the largest political donor in the state, Bossie said he thought it was a function of the flawed system.
“He’s a big donor giving money…the system is the system, it allows that and it must be reformed.”
Bossie said that when donors like Sussman give to his organization, they understand they will be advocating against “big money in politics.”