December 14, 2017
Politics Latest News | Poll Questions | Republican Tax Bill | Roy Moore | Susan Collins

New ethics questions haunt Maine’s $4.2 million casino campaign

By Michael Shepherd, BDN Staff
Updated:
BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
A person signs a petition in Bangor that is related to "An Act to Allow Slot Mchines or a Casino in York County" on Oct. 19, 2016.

AUGUSTA, Maine — In an apparent violation of Maine law, a web of domestic and offshore companies linked to a controversial developer has funded a $4.2 million bid fronted by his sister since 2015 to get Maine voters to approve a York County casino.

That revelation was buried in several documents filed with the Maine Ethics Commission during the past week that shed more light on the convoluted financial dealings of Shawn Scott, a U.S. Virgin Islands developer whose fellow investors would be the only beneficiaries of a license under the casino question going to voters in November.

The campaign for the casino has been led by Horseracing Jobs Fairness, a political committee that raised nearly $4.3 million through March’s end. Until this month, campaign finance reports showed that Lisa Scott of Miami, Shawn Scott’s sister, was the sole donor to the committee.

But that changed quietly this week, when Lisa Scott and two companies — one based in Miami and the other on the Pacific island of Saipan, part of the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — registered with the state as political committees reporting at least $4.2 million in loans promptly handed to Horseracing Jobs Fairness.

That loan money came from two sources. More than $3 million came from Capital Seven LLC, a Las Vegas-based company that Scott used in 2003 to run a Maine campaign that allowed what is now Hollywood Casino in Bangor and the rest came from Regent Able Associate Co., a Japanese consulting company.

It’s also reminiscent of an arrangement that drew a Scott-linked network $125,000 in ethics penalties in Massachusetts for concealing contributions to a failed 2016 casino campaign.

This financial network is likely overseen by Shawn Scott and John Baldwin, who run Bridge Capital, an investment firm also based in Saipan, which had a casino seized by the Laotian government in 2015 over allegations of corruption that the company has denied.

A legislative committee hearing in March unearthed the latest casino campaign’s formal ties to Bridge Capital when a Portland lobbyist said that’s who he was working for. That prompted Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls, and Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, the co-chairmen of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs committee, to request an ethics investigation earlier this month.

“This referendum stinks and there’s certainly something wrong,” Mason told reporters Thursday. “The committee knew that in its questioning and I think that probably the organizers of that referendum are starting to figure out that we’re onto them.”

Maine law says entities spending more than $5,000 to influence an election must register as committees within seven days of passing that threshold. These loans date back as far as 2015, the filings show.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said in an email to reporters on Thursday that it’s “likely that some of the registrations and campaign finance reports will be considered late.” The committees could be subject to fines.

Lisa Scott and Cheryl Timberlake, an Augusta-based lobbyist who serves as treasurer of Horseracing Jobs Fairness, didn’t respond to a request for comment made on Wednesday evening.

 


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like