The political action committee trying to persuade Maine voters to approve a third casino has pumped $1.55 million into its campaign and incurred over $1 million more in debt, spending on everything from Beltway political consultants to booth space at the Farmington Fair.

The most recent campaign finance report, filed with the state ethics office just ahead of the midnight Thursday deadline, shows that the Progress for Maine PAC has raised more than $1.8 million. All of the donations to the PAC came from a single company headed by New York real estate developer David Wilson and his business partner, casino developer Shawn Scott.

Scott is an international gambling entrepreneur who won voter approval to add slots to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003, bringing Maine the first of its two casinos. He then sold those rights to Penn National – which still operates what is now Hollywood Casino – for $51 million as regulators scrutinized his businesses and associates. A second casino in Oxford was approved by voters in 2010 and opened in 2012.

A license for a third casino in York County could be worth up to $200 million, state officials have said. The ballot question law is written so that only Scott or a company controlled by him could be awarded the license for the casino if voters approve the referendum on Nov. 7.

Scott and his companies have faced increased scrutiny from the Legislature, where lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have said they believe Maine’s ballot initiative process was never intended to benefit a single individual or company.

A ballot question committee formed by Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott, gathered the voter signatures needed to place the casino question on the ballot and remains the focus of an investigation by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Campaign Practices.

The bulk of the pro-casino PAC spending reported late Thursday has gone to a handful of out-of-state public relations and political consulting firms from Massachusetts to California, the finance report shows.

But the campaign also has some well-known Mainers on its payroll. Former Maine Attorney General Andrew Ketterer serves as the campaign’s legal counsel and was paid $100,000, while the campaign’s spokeswoman, Falmouth resident Rebecca Foster, received $10,000.

According to the report, the campaign also spent $550 to host an evening of bowling at Bayside Bowl in Portland for the Maine Senate Democratic Campaign Committee and another $2,500 to be a sponsor of the Senate Republican Golf Classic, a fundraising event for the Maine Senate Republican Majority PAC.

The report, which covers donations and spending through Sept. 30, shows the campaign has just over $244,000 on hand, with the next campaign finance report due Oct. 27.

Donations to the PAC all have come from Atlantic and Pacific Realty Capital LLC, which lists an address on 5th Avenue in New York City. Michael Sherry, a spokesman for the PAC, said last month that Shawn Scott and Wilson, an Atlantic and Pacific Realty executive, are the campaign’s primary backers.

Goddard Gunster, a Washington, D.C., firm that provides consulting, strategy and campaign management services, was paid $574,685 – the most of any vendor on the PAC report. The firm provided consulting services, social media coordination, website creation and maintenance, and production costs and advertising purchases on television and in print publications.

The firm’s website lists offices in Washington, London, Switzerland and Egypt, and says it specializes in leading ballot measure campaigns. Its more notable efforts include Brexit, the successful 2016 campaign to persuade voters in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, as well as several successful campaigns to defeat soda tax initiatives across the U.S.

The Progress for Maine PAC also paid Rodriguez Strategies, a Los Angeles firm, about $95,000 for door-to-door canvassing, including workers’ meals, lodging and airfare. Another $200,000 was paid to Red Digital of Virginia for digital advertising, and $197,900 to Amplified Strategies of Seattle for targeted mailers.

The PAC report also shows the campaign has unpaid debts or other financial obligations of more than $1 million, including a bill from Goddard Gunster for another $629,000 in television advertising.

In addition to the spending reported in the PAC filing late Thursday, casino backers had previously spent $4.3 million gathering the approximately 62,000 voter signatures needed to get the proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The $1.8 million in donations and $1.55 million in spending reported by casino supporters Thursday surpass the amounts on reports for ballot questions in 2016. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which supported recreational marijuana legalization, for example, reported raising $904,000 and spending $816,000 in the same quarterly period. Another PAC that operated in 2016, Citizens Who Support Maine’s Public Schools, reported raising $751,000 and spending $379,000 on a proposal to fund education with a 3 percent income tax surcharge for higher-income Maine households.

The pro-casino PAC’s spending and debt dwarf that of its opponent, A Bad Deal for Maine. That PAC was formed by Roy Lenardson, a political consultant, longtime Republican operative and former Maine State House staffer who now lives in Florida. Earlier this week, A Bad Deal for Maine, which has received about $30,000 of in-kind support in the form of a public opinion poll from Churchill Downs, launched a campaign website drawing attention to Scott’s background and dubbing him “Shady Shawn.” Churchill Downs is the owner of Oxford Casino in Oxford, which likely would face competition from any casino built in York County.

Spending since Sept. 30 will be reported at the next campaign finance filing deadline, Oct. 27.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

[email protected]

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