By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,466)
Accusations of foul play against Maine Media Collective and Portland’s Future were snuffed out by the City of Portland last Friday, November 5th. That’s when the City notified Save the Soul of Portland that it found no violations of campaign laws by any of the parties involved. That accusation was made by Peter Macomber, President of Save the Soul of Portland in a letter to Katherine Jones, City Clerk, written on October 26, 2015. In a one-page response to Macomber, Jones, City Clerk, cleared Maine Media Collective and Portland’s Future of any violations that stemmed from an one-sided magazine issue supporting the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street on Munjoy Hill.
Macomber’s letter accusing the two organizations of unethical journalistic practices and a lack of basic fairness was seen by many as a “Hail Mary” effort to distract voters from the overwhelming support the redevelopment of 58 Fore Street was receiving – found baseless by both the State Ethics Commission as well as the City of Portland, eventually. No matter the outcome of Macomber’s October letter, the distraction apparently did little to influence voters. Ironically, the referendum written by “Souls” leader and real estate attorney Barbara Vestal was defeated in a landslide on election day, November 3, 2015. (Incidentally, 35.99% of Portland registered voters voted on election day.)
Furthermore, Anne Rand, spokesperson for the Souls, has posted on the Souls facebook page that the activists won the YES campaign on Munjoy HIll by a huge majority; something like 1400 to 250 votes. Nothing could be more incorrect. Rather, the NO campaign won more votes than the Souls – the NO campaign won by 63 votes. Apparently, Rand read STATE election results rather than CITY results on Question 2 in her effort to find something positive from the election results.
Weighing in on the charges by the Soul of Portland, was attorney Matthew D. Manahan, PierceAtwood, on behalf of his client Maine Media Collective, (“MMC”). In his no nonsense, seven page October 29, 2015 letter to the city clerk, Manahan said in part: “That complaint is not only baseless, but it is an abuse of the campaign finance reporting process in a transparent and unfortunate attempt to achieve political gain and chill the free speech rights of the press. Therefore, you should reject the complaint in its entirety.” (Maine Media Collective owns the Old Port Magazine as well as other magazines in Portland.)
“We thank the City Clerk for conducting a careful review of the complaint, and for correctly concluding that we have fully complied with all campaign finance laws and regulations. It is unfortunate that the baseless complaint was filed in the first place, but we are glad that it did not become a distraction in the election last week,” wrote Kevin Thomas, Publisher, Maine Media Collective in an email on Tuesday, November 10th.
Peter Macomber, a commercial photographer for national companies, had no comment on the city’s decision when reached by telephone this morning.