AUGUSTA — One of the key figures in a campaign to bring what would be Maine’s third casino to York County is objecting to providing certain financial data to the Maine Ethics Commission.

The panel is investigating to determine who is bankrolling the campaign, which has spent $4.5 million so far to collect the voter signatures needed to get the proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday to consider the objection of Lisa Scott, a Miami-based real estate developer and officer in Horseracing Jobs Fairness, the committee formed to support the campaign.

In a letter to the five-member commission Monday, Jonathan Wayne, the panel’s executive director, wrote that Scott doesn’t want to release some financial data she was asked to provide in a subpoena accepted by her attorney in July.

The records Scott wants to withhold are central to the commission’s investigation, Wayne said in his letter, while reminding commissioners that they have been delayed in their attempts to get to the facts around the ballot question campaigns.

“The documents requested in the subpoena for Ms. Scott are highly relevant to the commission’s investigation into the financing of the Maine initiative, and are not unreasonable or oppressive,” Wayne wrote before detailing the specific records, including those that verify the flow of funds between Lisa Scott’s companies and a series of ballot question committees that were set up to support the question’s passage.

“She argues that personal information and information that is irrelevant to the commission’s investigation should be redacted from the records produced under the subpoena,” Wayne wrote. He urged the panel to direct Scott to provide all the documents requested in the subpoena, to withhold or redact only information that is covered by an evidentiary privilege, and to provide a log for any withheld or redacted information.

Wayne noted that Scott’s objections are similar to those already raised at a July commission meeting, when the panel voted to give Scott and her lawyers 60 additional days to assemble documents and produce a log of records that they would like to exempt from disclosure to the state. The filing extension was granted because Scott was vacationing in Europe earlier that the month.

Scott is the sister of Shawn Scott, an international gambling entrepreneur who won voter approval to add slot machines to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003, bringing Maine its first casino. Shawn Scott then sold those rights to Penn National – which still operates what is now Bangor’s successful Hollywood Casino – for $51 million as regulators scrutinized his businesses and associates.

A license for a casino in York County is estimated to be worth as much as $150 million, officials estimate, and the ballot question going to voters this fall is written in a way that only Shawn Scott or one of his companies could apply for the first license.

The push for the casino has been fraught with controversy. An initial drive fell short in 2015 after the Secretary of State’s Office invalidated many of the signed petitions. The campaign was forced to collect additional signatures, and in 2016 it cleared the threshold for getting on the ballot.

In question is the flow of money to the campaign. Only one ballot question committee filed campaign finance reports with the commission, but after-the-fact disclosures by Lisa Scott and a pair of her companies have led to at least three additional ballot question committees being formed. The late filings alone could prompt the commission to levy a fine equal to the $4.5 million the campaign has reported spending on signature collection.

Most recently, yet another entity has registered in support of the campaign. On Monday a new political action committee, Progress for Maine, also registered in support of the ballot question.

The campaign also has come under fire from the Legislature, including members of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over elections and casino gambling in Maine. Members of both parties have said they believe the casino backers are exploiting the state’s referendum process for profit, and question whether the state’s economy could sustain a third casino.

State Rep. Louis Luchinni, D-Ellsworth, the House co-chairman of the committee, has said the Legislature may try to put a competing question on the ballot, which is allowed under state law. Luchinni and the committee’s Senate chair, Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, have been outspoken critics of the campaign, as has Sen. Ron Collins, R-Wells, another member of the committee who represents York County.

In June, Lisa Scott’s attorney, Bruce Merrill, and another lawyer for lobbyist Cheryl Timberlake, who served as the ballot question committee’s treasurer, refused the commission’s subpoenas before eventually accepting them.

Merrill notes in a letter to the commission that he objected to the original subpoena and also is objecting to disclosing any records between him and Lisa Scott that would be protected under attorney-client privilege. Merrill adds that Timberlake already has provided some of the records requested from his client and her companies.

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

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