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Grand Jury subpoena issued to Donald Sussman, Maine political donor, Pingree’s former husband, in federal investigation

Left: S. Donald Sussman with his wife, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Right: Former Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum. News broke Thursday that Sussman had been issued a subpoena in a federal investigation that appears to be centered on Gillum.

TALLAHASSEE – The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that S. Donald Sussman, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s former husband and the Maine Democratic Party’s largest individual donor over the past decade, is one of at least four people issued a subpoena in a federal investigation focused on Andrew Gillum. Gillum is the former Mayor of Tallahassee who recently ran for Governor of Florida and lost to Republican Ron Desantis.

The Tampa Bay Times says that Sussman gave $1.5 million to Gillum’s political campaign organization, Forward Florida, and that the hedge fund billionaire is one of a group of at least four people targeted by subpoenas with close ties to Gillum.

The paper reports that there has been an ongoing FBI corruption investigation centered in Tallahassee focused on the time that Gillum was Mayor, but that he said during his campaign for Governor he was not under investigation. Now, however, the subpoenas and investigation tightly encircle Gillum, his donors and associates, and his campaign for governor.

Also issued a subpoena was a woman who worked for Sussman in Maine, Harris Parnell. The Tampa Bay Times found a link to her listed as working for Sussman in Maine. A professional listing on Parnell now says she left a job at a Maine non-profit to work as a donor advisor for a philanthropist, presumably Sussman, and relocated to Washington D.C.

Sussman’s ties to Maine are well known among many in Maine politics.

He is a top donor to the Maine Democratic Party and numerous liberal non-profits in Maine, often cutting checks from $20,000 to $150,000 to political action committees and the Maine Democratic State Committee. A quick search of both the Maine Ethics Commission database and the Federal Elections Commission show millions of dollars from Sussman flowing to liberal political causes in Maine and other states.

The Associated Press reported in 2014 that he had donated between $3 and $4 million in the 2014 election cycle. His donations equaled roughly $1 out of every $7 given to Maine Democrats.

But cutting checks to candidates and political action committees are perhaps not Sussman’s most notable influence.

In 2010, video of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree was captured by a photographer flying into the Portland Jetport in a private jet, which triggered the Maine Republican Party to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission that Pingree was accepting illegal gifts in the form of private flights.

As a result of that revelation and the complaint, Pingree announced she and Sussman were dating. Ironically, as director of the liberal group Common Cause, Pingree had been known to rail against members of Congress accepting flights on private jets.

Pingree ultimately paid a $9,750 fine to the FEC for accepting the private jet flights.

In 2011, Pingree and Sussman announced they had been married. Sussman went on to purchase Maine Today Media, which controlled most of the newspapers in Pingree’s Maine Congressional District.

In 2015, after Sussman’s financial records had been exposed to greater public scrutiny for several years due to financial disclosures required as spouse of a sitting Congresswoman, Pingree overran a deadline to file her financial disclosure report with the United States House of Representatives.

After months of failing to file the required reports and failing to meet deadline extensions, Pingree announced that she and Sussman were divorcing.

Her next filing removed all of Sussman’s financial information. In the end, Pingree responded to criticism of her failure to file financial disclosures by telling a reporter from the Portland Press Herald through her spokesman that it was, “really just like getting an extension from your professor on a term paper and then getting another extension.”

In June of 2015, Sussman sold Maine Today Media to Reade Brower, who owned other newspapers in Maine. According to the Associated Press, the divorce was finalized in 2016.

Sussman has been at the center of other controversies in his political activities. A prominent member of the secretive Democracy Alliance, Sussman’s largesse has found it’s way into many corners of America’s political left.

His relationship with Pingree and his political donations have also appeared to give him access to powerful politicians who regulate his industry.

According to this report from the Sunlight Foundation, Sussman flew Congressman Barney Frank and his partner, Jim Ready, to the Virgin Islands for a vacation during the time when Rep. Frank was leading a House Committee that was working on new government regulations on hedge funds.

The Sunlight Foundation also reported that many of the 28 firms Sussman had a financial stake in were incorporated in “offshore tax havens.”

News of the round of subpoenas to associates of Gillum spread quickly through the Florida media and into some national news media, but the Maine media has yet to pick up the story.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Sussman had not responded to a message left for him at his investment firm.

The previously known investigations in Tallahassee that dogged Gillum during his campaign for Governor have resulted in charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, extortion and bribery against other Tallahassee city officials.

Being served a subpoena is not necessarily an indication of guilt, but suggests that investigators believe you may be in possession of information or evidence that is important to the investigation, or that your testimony may advance the investigation.

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