AUGUSTA, Maine — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st District, said on Tuesday that she and her husband, Donald Sussman, have separated and plan to get a divorce.
“It is a very amicable and truly mutual decision,” said Pingree in a written statement to the Bangor Daily News. “It is sad for both of us, but we continue to have the utmost respect for each other. This is the only statement either of us will have on this private family matter.”
Pingree has been attacked by the Maine Republican Party in recent days about a financial reporting deadline that she missed on Aug. 13. According to Pingree, the House Ethics Committee has said that she no longer is required to list Sussman’s financial information on her annual disclosure form. Pingree has opted to use a 30-day grace period to file the paperwork.
The financial statement filing delay is the latest in a series of political waves Pingree’s marriage to Sussman, a billionaire financier and huge donor to progressive causes, has caused since they were married on June 18, 2011.
The marriage immediately gave Republicans ammunition to highlight millions of dollars Sussman has given to politicians, mostly Democrats, over the years, as well as his links to Chinese businesses. And in 2010, Pingree was attacked for her use of Sussman’s private jet for a campaign stop while the two were engaged.
In July, Pingree paid a $9,750 fine for the rides, which were ruled by the Federal Election Commission to be illegal campaign contributions because a fiancee is not considered a family member. Pingree previously was ordered to reimburse nearly $13,500 to Sussman’s company for the transportation services.
Sussman has been heavily involved in Maine politics, financially. In 2008, he gave $526,000 to oppose a citizen initiative to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law and $100,000 to oppose the repeal of the “soda tax,” which was meant to raise money to support the now-defunct Dirigo Health program. In 2003, Sussman made a donation to help defeat an initiative that would have allowed casinos on some private islands. His first political donation in Maine came in 1996, when he gave nearly $200,000 to support Jonathan Carter’s referendum to ban clear-cutting.
Sussman, the founder of Paloma Partners hedge fund of Greenwich, Connecticut, also has given money to a range of Democratic state House and Senate races, as well as to Pingree’s 2008 congressional campaign.
Sussman also was majority owner of Maine Today Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Waterville Sentinel, from February 2012 until he sold his interest in the newspapers earlier this year.
Pingree said she has spent recent days telling her family and friends about her impending change in marital status. The Pingree-Sussman marriage was the second for both of them. They met in 2007 and became engaged in 2008.