A Miami woman who has pumped millions of dollars into a campaign for a ballot question that will ask voters to approve a casino for southern Maine says she did not intend to violate state finance disclosure laws.

Lisa Scott’s statement Friday came a day after two state lawmakers called on Maine’s ethics commission to investigate the finances behind Horseracing Jobs Fairness, a ballot question committee Scott formed in 2015.

“There was never any intent by either Lisa Scott or HRJF to mislead the Ethics Commission in any of the original filings made in this matter,” the statement from Scott said.

The ballot initiative has drawn sharp criticism because, as written, only gambling entrepreneur Shawn Scott, Lisa Scott’s brother and a principal in Bridge Capital, or his associates would be allowed to build the casino. Shawn Scott was behind the effort to bring a racino to Bangor a decade ago.

Horseracing Jobs Fairness initially listed Lisa Scott as the sole donor to the ballot initiative effort. But amended disclosure filings on April 20, ordered by the ethics commission, showed the money came from Lisa Scott and several other donors who gave money to her.

In her statement Friday, Lisa Scott said, “HRJF did not understand the statute at issue to require Lisa Scott to identify the original sources for contributions made to her for HRJF; as such all the monies were identified as coming from Lisa Scott.”

The statement continues that as soon as the Ethics Commission advised the ballot question committee of the error, Lisa Scott made “immediate disclosures of the sources of that funding by filing an amended report for HRJF …”

Lisa Scott registered three new ballot question committees with the commission: one for herself and two for companies she owns, which also donated to the campaign.

At stake is about $4.3 million in donations that were collected and spent, in part, during the gathering of voter signatures needed to place the question on the November ballot.

Under Maine law, the commission could require Scott to pay a penalty for the inaccurate and untimely disclosures.

Horseracing Jobs Fairness could be fined up to the total $4.3 million donated; however, the disclosure violations would not keep the question off the ballot.

The commission has broad discretion in determining penalties for violation of the law. Scott also could request a waiver of any penalties.

The co-chairmen of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over casino gambling in Maine, called for the ethics commission investigation. Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth, and Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, noted that the principals involved in the ballot push have come under legal scrutiny in other states and other parts of the world.

Disclosure of who was actually bankrolling the ballot question was not known until March, when a lobbyist retained by Bridge Capital, a company based in the Northern Mariana Islands and headed by Shawn Scott, told the committee that Scott’s companies were backing the push.

On Thursday, Luchini charged the campaign with committing, “fraud after fraud after fraud,” while Mason said, “This referendum stinks and there is certainly something wrong.”

Mason went on to say the ballot push reflected the serious flaws in Maine’s citizens’ initiative process. “You can get anything you want on the ballot in Maine as long as you have enough money,” he said.

The campaign has faced other setbacks, including the rejection of several thousand voter signatures that were deemed ineligible by Maine Secretary State Matt Dunlap in 2016.

But in January, Dunlap’s office certified the ballot question committee had collected enough valid voter signatures to bring the referendum forward in November.

A similar failed campaign by the same backers also paid a $125,000 penalty in Massachusetts in 2016 after that state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance found it had violated campaign disclosure laws there, including “receiving contributions made in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the funds.” Other violations included broadcasting television advertisements that did not contain required disclosures and failing to disclose campaign finance activity in a timely manner.

In her statement Friday, Scott said the new filings with the Ethics Commission, including amendments to nearly every previously filed campaign finance report, was evidence of the “ongoing commitment of the supporters of this initiative to provide additional information regarding the source of funding for HRJF.”

Scott also said her family was committed “to bringing tens of millions of dollars in new revenues for education, health care and the horse-racing industry, as well as nearly a thousand new jobs to Maine.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

st[email protected]

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