In Maine, a state ethics body has reportedly levied a record $500,000 in fines against four ballot question committees that successfully lobbied for a referendum to be placed before voters tomorrow regarding whether to bring a casino to York County.
According to a report from the Portland Press Herald newspaper, the five-member Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices launched its investigations in June before levying the penalties via a series of four-to-one votes on Friday following seven hours of deliberations.
The newspaper reported that the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, which oversees the eastern state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, ruled that the ballot question committees had failed to meet reporting deadlines while also incorrectly declaring the sources of around $4.5 million they utilized to fund their efforts.
The Portland Press Herald reported that one of the ballot question committees, Horseracing Jobs Fairness, had been established by Miami-based real estate developer Lisa Scott and subsequently managed to collect 61,000 signatures earlier in the year so as to authorize the November 7 referendum concerning whether to authorize a third casino for Maine in York County.
However, the newspaper explained that Scott is the sister of controversial gambling entrepreneur Shawn Scott and that he was instrumental in organizing a similar referendum more than ten years ago that authorized a casino for the state’s third largest city, Bangor. Immediately after winning at the ballot box, he reportedly pocketed some $51 million by selling the new license to casino and racetrack operator Penn National Gaming Incorporated, which subsequently opened its Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway Bangor.
The Portland Press Herald detailed that the remaining three ballot question committees had moreover been established by Lisa Scott while the wording of tomorrow’s ballot question would authorize only one company, Shawn Scott’s Capital Seven entity, to hold the York County casino license.
The newspaper reported that the York County casino license is ‘estimated to be worth as much as $200 million’ before explaining that Cheryl Timberlake, an Augusta lobbyist that served as Treasurer for Horseracing Jobs Fairness, told investigators that the cash backing the referendum had come from Shawn Scott despite his sister’s name appearing on paperwork as the primary source of funding. It alleged that later investigations had found that Lisa Scott had furthermore secretly raised funds ‘from a network of investors including some from as far away as Japan’.
Alongside the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway Bangor, Maine is home to Churchill Downs Incorporated’s Oxford Casino while Lisa Scott’s attorney reportedly told the newspaper that she now intends to appeal the penalty decisions, which could have topped $4.5 million, in court.
The Portland Press Herald reported that the $500,000 in fines represents almost ten times the record $50,250 the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices imposed against the National Organization for Marriage in 2014 after this group failed to register as a ballot question committee for the 2009 elections.