AUGUSTA, Maine — A Lewiston-based political consultant and former state lawmaker was paid more than $760,000 to collect voter signatures for a failed ballot question campaign to allow a southern Maine casino.
According to records filed with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, Olympic Consulting, headed by Stavros Mendros, a former Republican state lawmaker and Lewiston city councilor, was one of two companies paid by the Horseracing Jobs Fairness campaign to gather signatures in Maine.
In all, the campaign spent more than $2.9 million, putting it among the most costly ballot campaigns in state history.
The other company hired to collect signatures in Maine was Silver Bullet Group based in Cheyenne, Wyoming. That company was paid $1.1 million for its role in the failed effort, according to a recent campaign finance report filed by the campaign’s treasurer, Cheryl Timberlake, an Augusta-based lobbyist.
The report also detailed a wide range of spending on a variety of expenses, with money spent on airlines, car rental companies, hotels, day-labor firms and even at a comic book store.
During the campaign, out-of-state workers hired to gather signatures complained to the media that they were not being fully paid for their work. When confronted by journalists on the streets in both Bangor and Lewiston, some circulators refused to identify themselves or say for whom they were working.
The campaign finance filing, as required under Maine’s elections laws, comes in the wake of a recent Kennebec County Superior Court ruling that affirmed Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s decision to disqualify the campaign based on invalid signatures.
Dunlap’s staff threw out thousands of voter signatures on petitions notarized by Mendros because his signatures on the petitions did not match his verified signature on file with the secretary of state’s office.
Mendros said Friday he was disputing the campaign’s finance report.
He said additional expenditures he made the campaign were not included in the report. He also said his company only received $668,000 and that the campaign actually owed him an additional $300,000.
“That’s why I haven’t been able to pay people,” Mendros said.
He intends to contest the details in the report with the ethics commission, he said.
On Friday, Judge Michaela Murphy upheld a separate petition drive Mendros’ company worked on — one meant to ask voters to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine.
In that case, 17,000 signatures notarized by Mendros were in question. A call to Mendros for comment Friday was not immediately returned.