Sussman in print?

Maine media and political circles have been buzzing with renewed talk that billionaire hedge-fund manager S. Donald Sussman is thinking of starting a progressive-oriented publication. He has denied any such plans, though the Phoenix was not the only organization asking Sussman about the rumor in the past week.

Sussman, who is engaged to be married to Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, is rumored to still be upset at Portland Press Herald coverage last year of Pingree's use of his private jet for transportation, despite the House Ethics Committee's declaration that it was not a violation of House rules. (In the ensuing coverage came Pingree's announcement that she and Sussman had been engaged for months.)

Sussman has reportedly hired K. Harris Parnell as a private advisor for his philanthropic pursuits, which include support for arts organizations, social-service groups, and progressive causes. Parnell is a former state director of the Maine Toxics Action Center and the Maine chapter of the League of Young Voters. Her online professional profile says she is now a "donor advisor" - between her time at the League and sometime in January, she worked for Maine Initiatives, a Sussman-funded group that is a major backer of both her previous employers.

Speculation has included possibilities that the new publication would be a daily paper to compete directly with the Press Herald, as well as that it might be something less frequent, such as a weekly along the lines of the Maine Times, a groundbreaking crusading publication founded in 1968 that ultimately folded in 2002.

A statement from Sussman, provided by a public-relations consultant, reads, in full:

"While I am deeply committed to supporting many causes, including Maine's farming and fishing industries, small business innovation, and organizations dedicated to building strong communities, and I get many requests for support, including from people who are interested in expanding media options in Maine, I have no intention of starting a newspaper here or anywhere else."

(Upon more detailed inquiry, the consultant, Carol Kelly of Portland-based Pivot Point, specified that Sussman is, in addition to not generally starting newspapers, not funding the just-launched website calling itself the New Maine Times.)

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