Liberal Dark Money Group Behind Maine News Site Attacking Collins

Collins challenger Sara Gideon has history of benefiting from dark money

Sara Gideon/ Twitter Screenshot

Maine Democrat Sara Gideon is benefiting from another multimillion-dollar dark money group as she attempts to unseat Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), despite decrying "big money" in politics.

Gideon has been receiving positive coverage from a Maine news website which operates as part of a larger news network that publishes favorable content of Democratic candidates and attacks their Republican opponents.

Maine Beacon is one of the 12 affiliates of The Newsroom, a network of media outlets focused on state-level politics which operates across the United States. The Newsroom is a project of the Hopewell Fund, a Washington, D.C-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that "incubates projects and provides professional support and guidance." Other affiliates of The Newsroom include the Arizona Mirror, the Colorado Independent, Maryland Matters, the Nevada Current, and the Michigan Advance.

In recent months, the Maine Beacon has published glowing headlines on Gideon, including "Gideon's bill would make Maine a national leader on paid family leave" and "Record-breaking fundraising for Gideon and other Democratic Senate candidates." Its pieces on Collins are often negative and read as opposition research pieces. Some of its headlines against Collins are "Big bucks ready to flow into Maine as Susan Collins aims to keep her seat," "Cowardice is the dominant gene for Collins and her Republican Party," "Collins attends fundraiser at $4m mansion of nation's top anti-choice judicial activist," and "Collins says judge backed by anti-abortion groups is an ‘outstanding' example."

The Maine Beacon's editor is Lauren McCauley, a former staff writer at Common Dreams, a progressive news website.

The Hopewell Fund, which received $130,469,297 in grants and untraceable contributions in 2017, is one of four nonprofit entities managed by Arabella Advisors, which helped funnel $1.6 billion to liberal organizations between 2013 and 2017, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Arabella Advisors also manages New Venture Fund, Windward Fund, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, "which has funneled millions of dollars to progressive causes in recent years," according to Politico.

Added together, the Sixteen Thirty Fund groups have been among the most prolific political advertisers of 2018. They have aired 6,885 broadcast TV ads since Jan. 1, according to Advertising Analytics, a TV tracking firm — more than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and almost as many as Americans for Prosperity, two of the five biggest nonprofit political advertisers focused on the House and Senate in the first half of this year.

The network, which has spent over $4.6 million on TV alone, has also been one of the top political advertisers in the country on Facebook, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from the social media company's new political ad archive.

Gideon has vocally opposed "big money" on Twitter, but this is not the first time her campaign has benefited from dark money groups. One group, Maine Momentum, has reserved at least $722,000 for advertising through January to "educate" voters about Collins and elevate Gideon, according to the Free Beacon. Washington Post factchecker Glenn Kessler gave the group three Pinocchios last month for an anti-Collins ad, saying the ad included a "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."

Kessler said the ad was "cleverly crafted," but wrote that it misleadingly cited an opinion piece. The ad "misattributes and misquotes the source material to make its claim seem more authoritative than it is." Kessler said there was also "no evidence" to support its claim about corporate PAC money swaying Collins's votes.

The Gideon campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment.