The majority of daily news outlets in Maine are now bankrolled by some of the country’s largest donors to the Democratic Party and left-wing interest groups.
Mega donors George Soros and Swiss foreign national Hansjörg Wyss are among the uber wealthy progressives that are bankrolling a new “non-partisan” news outlet in Maine, the Maine Morning Star, through the left-wing nonprofit States Newsroom.
That news comes as a national news website reported Sunday that Soros’s Open Society Foundations and the Wyss Foundation reportedly made large financial contributions to the National Trust for Local News, the nonprofit that recently acquired five of Maine’s daily newspapers.
(Note: Soros’ Open Society Foundations told the BDN Wednesday that while they donate to National Trust, they haven’t earmarked any donations.)
The Maine Wire has previously reported that Soros and top left-wing donors, like eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, have donated to National Trust.
However, the Sunday news report from Semafor is the first confirmation that the two long-time progressive donors made earmarked donations to underwrite the purchase of several Maine newspapers.
Wyss, who grew a billion dollar fortune in the medical device industry, and Soros, who became a billionaire through currency speculation and other investments, are now financially involved with the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel (now combined as CentralMaine.com), the Lewiston Sun Journal, and the Brunswick Times Record.
National Trust also purchased seventeen weekly newspapers from former owner Reade Brower.
Representatives from National Trust said in July, following the purchase, that they would disclose the donors who had made the deal possible, but they have yet to do so more than two months after the deal was finalized.
Soros and Wyss’ role in one of the largest transactions in recent Maine media history comes the same week that the States Newsroom announced a new presence in Maine via Maine Morning Star.
States Newsroom, like dozens of liberal political groups in Maine, has been funded by progressive donors, including major contributions from the Wyss Foundation as well as the North Fund and the Hopewell Fund, two funds managed by Arabella Advisors.
Arabella Advisors, a Washington D.C.-based firm, functions as a pass-through organization for wealthy Democratic and progressive donors who desire to fund political activism anonymously.
That is, billionaires like Soros and Wyss contribute large sums to Arabella and Arabella then distributes those sums across an array of liberal nonprofits throughout the country. The arrangement helps, in many cases, to obscure where the money originated from.
Although States Newsroom claims to now be independent of the Arabella network of left-wing dark money, the group launched in 2019 as a project of the Hopewell Fund. The group also received a contribution from the North Fund as recently as 2020. It continues to list Wyss on it’s donor disclosures.
As of 2021, the States Newsroom reported revenue of more than $27 million, all of which came through donations.
Although the Morning Star is branding itself as a “nonpartisan” news outlet, the financial ties to a top progressive dark money network suggests the outlet will have a leftward tilt.
As recently as 2020, a job posting for States Newsroom described the organization as a “progressive political journalism startup.”
Maine already has a progressive political blog funded by Wyss and Arabella in the form of the Maine Beacon, the media project of the Maine People’s Alliance.
If the Morning Star was interested in bucking the perception that it’s little more than an attempt to rebrand of the Maine Beacon operation is politically or ideologically neutral, its early hiring won’t help on that front.
Evan Popp and Lauren McCauley, two former Maine Beacon / Maine People’s Alliance employees, will comprise 50 percent of the Morning Star’s staff when it launches.
Liberal columnist Sam Pfeifle, who has previously written for the Maine Beacon, will also write for Morning Star, according to his Twitter bio.
The influence that Soros, Omidyar, Wyss, and other anonymous donors have in Maine politics is difficult to overstate, and much of that influence flows through Arabella Advisors and its allies in Maine.
In addition, to the vast media empire progressive billionaires are bankrolling in Maine, the very same donors have made financial contributions through Arabella Advisors to a host of interest groups that work hand-in-glove with Maine Democrats to influence elections and State House policy.
Arabella supports a panoply of progressive pressure groups in Maine, including the Maine People’s Alliance a.k.a. the Maine People’s Resource Center a.k.a. the Maine Small Business Coalition, the Maine Center for Economic Policy, Maine Initiatives, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Mainers for Working Families, Maine AFL-CIO, and many other groups that are active in Maine politics.
Despite its massive influence in Maine, Arabella is rarely reported on in Maine media.
A search of the Bangor Daily News reveals only one mention, ever, of Arabella — in an editorial about conservative donors featuring the Maine Wire’s interview with Federalist Society Co-Chairman Leonard Leo.
Maine Public, the state’s taxpayer funded news outlet, has mentioned Arabella twice, once in 2020 and, more recently, in an article about Leo.
A search of the Press Herald’s website reveals zero reporting on Arabella.
The news report that initially confirmed Soros and Wyss’ involvement in the National Trust’s purchase of the Press Herald and other newspapers also reported, erroneously, that the Maine Wire’s parent organization, the Maine Policy Institute, received contributions from the Schwab Family Foundation and Donors Trust in 2020 and 2021.
However, as previously disclosed by the Maine Wire, Leo is a financial supporter of Maine Policy Institute.