2014 US Senate Campaign

Maine political players attend conference for shadowy Democracy Alliance

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Billionaire S. Donald Sussman and wife Congresswoman Chellie Pingree own the Portland Press Herald.

Billionaire S. Donald Sussman and wife Congresswoman Chellie Pingree own the Portland Press Herald.

When a group of left-wing millionaires and billionaires held a secret meeting in Chicago last week, big time political players from Maine’s Democratic Party were in attendance.

S. Donald Sussman, his daughter, Emily Sussman, and Daniel Hildreth are listed as attendees of last week’s event at the Ritz Carlton, where progressive power players are believed to have crafted a dark money spending strategy for the 2014 elections. Although media reporters are strictly prohibited from attending all Democracy Alliance events — Politico reporters have been physically removed in the past — a partial member list was left behind and recovered by the Washington Free Beacon.

According to the Free Beacon, the DA is a secretive group of union bosses, corporate big-wigs, and liberals with large inheritances who use their wallets and pocketbooks to influence state and federal elections. Members must pay $30,000 per year in dues to the group and contribute at least $200,000 to groups across the country that the alliance endorses. The alliance does not accept donations itself, but serves as a pass through organization facilitating the transfer of millions of dollars in anonymous dark money to political action committees and 501(c)4s such as the Maine People’s Alliance.

Last year, the New York Times gave some indication that Maine’s prominent Democratic figures would be associating with the Democracy Alliance to influence the 2014 elections. “In Maine,” the Times wrote, “a consortium of progressive groups financed by the hedge fund billionaire S. Donald Sussman, [a Democracy Alliance] member, is looking to unseat Gov. Paul R. LePage this year and put both the governor’s office and the Legislature under Democratic control.” 

Although Sussman’s membership with the DA is well-known, the list indicates that his daughter is a new member.

Emily Tisch Sussman is the campaign director for the Center for American Progress Action Fund – a national progressive group that seeks to influence federal policy. The fund is a sister organization to the Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank, and it also operates Think Progress, a popular left-wing propaganda outlet.

Hildreth, of Falmouth, is the grandson of former Maine governor Horace Hildreth, a Republican. Horace established Maine’s first television station, WABI-TV, a company which is still controlled by Daniel via his Portland-based firm Diversified Communications. Additionally, Hildreth is the vice chair of GrowSmart a trustee of the Maine Audubon and a board member of OnlineMariner.com. 

Hildreth’s connection to the DA was previously unknown.

He is currently serving as the campaign treasurer for Democrat Shenna Bellows’ U.S. Senate campaign. 

Hildreth did not return phone calls placed to his Portland office and the Bellows campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

DA members reportedly sign non-disclosure agreements which prevent them from talking openly about the group, its membership and its activities. It is unclear whether Hildreth was representing Bellows at the DA conference in any official capacity. 

State and federal records indicate that Hildreth has donated abundantly to Democratic causes and candidates.

Since 2008, Hildreth has donated $14,483 to Democratic causes and candidates in Maine. On the federal level, he has donated to several Democratic candidates and political action committees, including $1000 donations each to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Since 2008, Hildreth has given $8000 to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Sussman’s wife.

A 2012 story by the Portland Press Herald, a newspaper owned by Sussman, listed Hildreth as the 5th largest giver to federal campaigns in Maine. That year, Hildreth gave $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee and $50,000 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

But Hildreth’s spending on politics pales in comparison to Sussman’s.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign watchdog, lists Sussman as the tenth largest contributor to outside spending groups in the 2014 election cycle. In 2012, Sussman gave almost one million dollars to federal campaigns, according to the Press Herald. According to the CRP, he has already donated $880,000 to the House Majority PAC for the 2014 election cycle.

The DA’s connection to Maine is particularly ironic considering complaints from various Maine liberals about the influence of libertarian entrepreneurs Charles and David Koch. In what appears to be a planned message strategy, several Democratic officials and operatives have made the Kochs the target of op-eds, blog posts and fundraising pitches.

Mike Tipping, communications director for the Sussman-funded Maine People’s Alliance, wrote in April that the Koch brothers were “killing Medicaid expansion in Maine.” Tipping said the defeat of Medicaid expansion in Maine didn’t just happen because of GOP resistance, but as “part of a well-funded, well-coordinated campaign to impose on all of us the political views of a wealthy, conservative few.”

Although Tipping did not have any evidence to support his thesis, he did have plenty of conspiratorial innuendo. In contrast, the release of the Democracy Alliance members’ list adds to the mountain of evidence suggesting that Tipping is a paid actor in a well-funded, well-coordinated campaign to impose on all of us the political views of a wealthy, progressive few.

Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) and Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) have also jumped on the Koch-hating bandwagon while conveniently ignoring the influence of Democratic dark money. In a fundraising letter, Alfond complained that the Kochs had a “target” on his back. Russell, in a recent newspaper op-ed, declared that she was forming a legislative task force to spy out Legislation that may have been influenced by the Kochs.

Although Maine’s liberal politicians and activists talk the talk when it comes to getting dark money out of politics, the connection to the Democracy Alliance suggests that they are really only concerned with political spending they disagree with. If anonymous millionaires and billionaires want to influence Maine politics in their direction, Maine’s liberals with welcome the cash with open arms, unperturbed by the hypocrisy.

See the full list below. (h/t Lachlan Markay at FreeBeacon.com)


Steve Robinson
Editor, The Maine Wire

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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