Five Months Later, ‘National Trust’ Won’t Say Who Funded Takeover of Maine Newspapers

By Steve Robinson

Five months after telling its staff and readers that it planned to disclose “the funders” behind the purchase of five Maine daily newspapers, the nonprofit trust now controlling several of Maine’s oldest news brands hasn’t kept the promise.

The sale of the Portland Press Herald, Lewiston Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal, and other Maine news brands to the “National Trust for Local News” was completed last summer.

The National Trust said on Aug. 1, following the takeover, that it “looks forward to sharing more about the funders who support this acquisition when we constitute our local board in September,” according to a report in one of the newspapers it controls.

Since that promise appeared in the Press Herald, the National Trust has formed a subsidiary website for the “Maine Trust for Local News” and listed some of the people running the new media company.

However, no announcement has been made about the members of the alleged local board, nor has anything been said of the takeover’s funders.

Press Herald reporter Rachel Ohm, who originally conveyed the National Trust’s statement about disclosing donors, hasn’t written any follow-up stories on the topic.

Lisa DeSisto, the CEO of the papers, originally indicated in a Dec. 29 email that she would answer questions about what National Trust had promised readers in August, but she subsequently stopped replying to inquiries.

What little Mainers can know about the money that now supports the Press Herald and its sister papers comes from the digital media outlet Semafor.

According to Semafor, left-wing billionaire George Soros and Swiss foreign national Hansjörg Wyss were behind the acquisition.

“Two of the country’s key left-leaning political spenders, George Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the medical device billionaire philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, played a central — and previously unreported — role in the nonprofit purchase of nearly two dozen respected local newspapers in Maine, including the Portland Press Herald, the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Kennebec Journal,” Max Tani reported in September.

Soros, one of the most well-known left-wing donors in American politics, also supports liberal advocacy groups throughout Maine, like the Maine People’s Alliance.

Wyss made his money in medical devices and was once sued for illegally testing bone cement on human subjects. Although he is not a U.S. citizen and is not allowed to vote in American elections, he has taken a strong interest in shaping Maine’s politics.

In addition to reportedly financing the purchase of the multiple Maine newspapers, Wyss also funded the nonprofit “States Newsroom,” which recently started a progressive blog centered on Maine politics.

Wyss and Soros haven’t said anything about their motives for bankrolling the media takeover in Maine, but their past spending suggests the pair have an interest in boosting progressive politics in the state.

Soros has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Democratic Party politicians, progressive nonprofit groups, and left-wing political action committees, including multiple organizations that backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Wyss is legally prohibited from donating directly to political candidates, though that hasn’t stopped him from doing so in the past — or from finding loopholes to use his money to influence politics.

This story will be updated if the “National Trust” ever provides the disclosure it said it would.

This piece was reprinted with permission from The Maine Wire, which can be found online at

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