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The IRS is Letting Leftist Nonprofits Buy 6 out of Maine’s 7 Daily Papers
Megadonors monopolize Maine’s media with IRS complicity.
By Daniel Greenfield
In a declining media environment, the sale of 22 newspapers in Maine should not have been big news. What made it interesting was that the buyer of the state’s largest media group wasn’t a hedge fund, it was a 501(c)(3) nonprofit funded by George Soros’ Open Society, Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the Gates Foundation and many other major leftist donors.
The National Trust For Local News had done it before, buying up 24 newspapers in Colorado, and its portfolio now includes everything from the Bangor Daily News to the Englewood Herald to the Kennebec Journal. Why are leftist billionaires like George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Hansjorg Wyss, Bill Gates, Pat Stryker (one of the country’s top Democrat donors), and Steven Spielberg’s Hearthland Foundation interested in the Portland Press Herald?
Media monopolies suddenly aren’t a problem when they’re in the greedy hands of the Left.
NTLN claims that it’s a “nonprofit dedicated to keeping local news in local hands”, in reality there are reports that the George Soros “Open Society and Wyss gave millions to the National Trust for the purchase of the Maine newspapers”. Hansjörg Wyss is a Swiss citizen who has injected his massive fortune into American politics while subsidizing much of the American Left.
Turning over the majority of Maine’s daily papers to two foreign leftist billionaires is the opposite of keeping local news in local hands. Some of the wealthiest men in and outside this country are not interested in The Bethel Citizen reporting that two orchards have apples ripe for picking.
There’s a whole other crop being picked in Maine.
“Local papers are trustworthy because of their closeness to the community and on-the-ground reporting. They combat disinformation through their accuracy and independence,” the NTLN pitches potential donors. “By providing information on local politicians, businesses, and projects, they not only hold those organizations accountable but also increase voter turnout, voter regularity, split-ticket voting, and political competitiveness.”
‘Disinformation’ is a leftist euphemism for opposition political speech. The closing pitch is that controlling newspapers will increase voter turnout, split-ticket voting and political competitiveness. And top Democrat donors are not spending fortunes to increase Republican voter turnout, getting Democrats to engage in more split-ticket voting or to boost Republican competitiveness in Democrat districts. The agenda is to help Democrats win.
Why Maine? One of the state’s big invisible assets is that its unique electoral college setup which breaks up votes based on the overall tally and the winners in its two congressional districts makes it potentially appealing. In both 2016 and 2020, Maine split its electoral college vote. And that means investing in local papers can potentially make a difference.
Can consolidating control over 6 of the 7 daily papers in the state make an impact? Maine’s 2nd congressional district, which handed its electoral vote to Trump twice, is served by multiple papers bought up by national leftist special interests including the Sun Journal in Lewiston.
It’s a free country and a man can buy a newspaper to promote his encounters with Bigfoot or his conviction in the merits of phrenology or socialism, but the National Trust isn’t a man.
It’s a nonprofit.
Major Democrat donors have been empowered to buy up the leading newspapers in Maine for political purposes while operating as a nonprofit. If Democrats want to buy newspapers in order to broadcast political propaganda, they should have to function as campaign operations, and they should certainly not be allowed to dodge taxes by operating as nonprofits.
But the IRS continues to allow the Left to dodge taxes and pass the buck to taxpayers. And the media has chosen to obscure even the most basic financial information about these takeovers. The New York Times, among other papers, has done stories about the Maine buyout without ever mentioning an actual amount. National coverage of the buyout has been just as secretive. A local paper mentioned that the amount was likely more than $15 million but one of its allies couldn’t disclose details of the secretive deal because of a non-disclosure agreement.
The Maine deal is supposed to “reinvigorate” journalism, but all it’s doing is demonstrating that journalism has become an alternating series of political puff pieces and smear campaigns. When it comes to a leftist operation like megadonors monopolizing Maine’s newspapers, the media seems unwilling to ask even the most basic possible questions at the heart of journalism.
The NTLN handled the deal through Will Nelligan, a veteran of leftist foundations who had formerly worked for a Democrat senator, who commented that, ““it’s hard to imagine now, but Maine was once a bellwether state and ‘as Maine goes…’ a popular American political truism.”
Local newspapers in states like Maine or Colorado are seen as fire sale assets that can be easily bought up and flipped over to nonprofits. While NTLN focuses on buying up existing papers, other leftist organizations have taken variable approaches. Report for America, also funded by Google, the Knight Foundation, Spielberg’s Hearthland, along with Facebook, Microsoft, and the Ford Foundation, has its sticky fingers in The Maine Monitor in Augusta.
That’s part of a nationwide effort that extends far beyond Maine.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center has been warning for some time that leftist nonprofits are cannibalizing a failing media ecosystem: buying up and turning legacy properties into nonprofits. In Florida, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, is a nonprofit funded by leftist billionaires like George Soros and Pierre Omidyar, and puts out The Tampa Bay Times and runs PolitiFact blending together a newspaper, a journalism school and a ‘fact checking’ censorship service.
The National Trust For Local News is showing what that model can look like as it’s scaled up to encompass entire newspaper groups. The NTLN had just concluded its secretive takeover of Masthead Maine, the newspaper group, when it began showcasing what it really cared about from its newfound assets, stories about police violence, poverty and “climate change”.
The new leftist media group boasts of its pandemic reporting focused on “how some businesses and organizations were flouting public health precautions” and gloried in the penalties imposed on malefactors such as Gary’s Olde Town Tavern (staff not wearing masks) Beth’s Kitchen (employees not wearing masks) and Boomers (refusal to wear face coverings) and bragged of how its global warming propaganda “helped Mainers understand climate change as a local problem”.
Would Maine really be worse off without woke scolds harassing the staff at Beth’s Kitchen for not wearing masks? Probably not. A lot of local newspapers are dying because their values are already at odds with those of the people they pretend to serve. The new wave of leftist takeovers will eliminate even the pretense that local readership matters in any way.
In Maine, Colorado and any other local newspapers taken over by the NTLN octopus and its endless flow of Google, Soros and Wyss cash, local news will mean national propaganda.
And if Google and Soros want to waste their money, that’s their choice, but the only reason very wealthy leftists and their foundations care about some local papers in Maine is to influence elections. By allowing them to transfer sizable for-profit assets into the non-profit square for political purposes, the IRS is once again complicit in the nonprofit hijacking of our system.
Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize leftist media propaganda outlets. If George Soros or Hansjörg Wyss want to own the Rumford Fall Times or the (no longer) Free Press or The Republican Journal, they, and not the taxpayers, should cover the entire political bill.