On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that the right-wing media empire Newsmax, which is owned by President Donald Trump's friend Chris Ruddy, gave $50,000 to a super PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), without sharing this donation with its readers, and while running stories attacking her most prominent Democratic opponent for being funded by liberal "big money."
"As the competitive Maine Senate race heated up last summer, the conservative news outlet Newsmax blared a warning to its audience: Democratic moneymen were pouring cash into an effort to flip one of Republicans’ most endangered Senate seats," wrote Lachlan Markey. "'Progressive big-money donors are stepping up their crusade against centrist Sen. Susan Collins,' Newsmax senior editor David Patten wrote. 'Advertising Analytics reports none of the $1.3 million spent on the Senate race so far has come from Republican sources.' Collins’ Senate campaign quickly promoted the piece on its own website."
However, Markey continued, "Exactly one week later, Newsmax took steps to even the odds. The company donated $50,000 to 1820 PAC, a deep-pocketed super PAC linked to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supporting Collins’ re-election. It was just the fifth time the company had donated directly to a federal political committee, and the first time it had done so since 2015. And it was by far Newsmax’s largest-ever donation."
Furthermore, "Days after the donation, Patten wrote another story relaying allegations of election law violations by Collins’ Democratic opponent, Maine State House Speaker Sara Gideon. The following month, Newsmax ran a story touting Collins’ lead in the polls — and reporting on a new 1820 PAC ad supporting her."
Collins, who has historically won re-election by large margins with cross-party support, has seen her popularity plunge after siding with Trump on a number of key issues, like tax cuts for the wealthy, the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and moving to exonerate the president of impeachment charges.
Her most prominent opponent is Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, but several other candidates are challenging her including former Maine Women’s Forum director Betsy Sweet, defense attorney Bre Kidman, and independent candidate Tiffany Bond. Maine is the only state which employs ranked-choice voting in senatorial elections, meaning even a split vote against Collins could jeopardize her re-election.