AUGUSTA — The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices on Monday unanimously rejected a request to postpone any potential action against backers of the York County casino referendum until after the election next week.

The commission then went into a closed-door executive session to determine what financial information collected from those financing the ballot question campaign, including Miami real estate developer Lisa Scott, would be made public. The information could be released Tuesday, when the commission is scheduled to take up the investigation into the campaign’s spending reports during a daylong public meeting.

Lisa Scott is the sister of Shawn Scott, the casino entrepreneur behind the referendum. The proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot would give Shawn Scott or his Nevada-based company, Capital 7, the exclusive right to apply for a state casino license to build the facility at a yet-to-be-identified location in York County.

Shawn Scott

Scott won voter approval to add slot machines 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.

The license for a casino in southern Maine could be worth up to $200 million, state officials have said.

Lisa Scott pumped $4.5 million into a two-year effort to gather enough voter signatures in Maine to place the question on the ballot. She ultimately formed four ballot question committees, including Horseracing Jobs Fairness, another in her own name and two others named for businesses she heads. All of those entities either loaned or donated money to the petition effort, while also accepting loans and donations from other businesses with ties to Shawn Scott.

But as scrutiny intensified in late August, Lisa Scott announced she was stepping away from the casino effort. A subsequent political action committee, Progress for Maine, was formed and has since spent an additional $4.3 million trying to convince voters to support the ballot measure. The ballot question committees and the PAC all have ties to a network of companies that stretches across the country and around the globe.

Lisa Scott

Combined, the separate PACs and ballot question committees have spent close to $9 million on the ballot question for a casino, an effort that started in 2015. Maine voters have voted on at least five different casino questions in recent years, rejecting all but two of them since 2003.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are calling for reform of the state’s citizen initiative process and have said the casino initiative, which would benefit a single company or individual, is a “case study” for how easily Maine’s citizen initiative process can be “hijacked” by special interests.

Attorneys for Lisa Scott and attorneys for the political action committee Progress for Maine requested that the ethics committee delay its decision on any enforcement action until after voters decide the ballot question Nov. 7. Commission members rejected that request.

The ethics commission’s executive director, Jonathan Wayne, said the commission intends to meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday and would take testimony from Lisa Scott and Augusta-based lobbyist Cheryl Timberlake, who served as the treasurer for one of the ballot question committees set up by Lisa Scott.

“The commission may reach a decision on whether some of the parties were late in registering and filing campaign finance reports in 2016, or the commissioners may schedule a decision for another day,” Wayne wrote.

Earlier this year, Lisa Scott’s attorneys rejected subpoenas from the commission, but later agreed to provide access to her private financial records as long as records unrelated to the campaign in Maine were kept confidential. The commission, which usually releases information in advance of the findings of its staff, has withheld recommendations that it will discuss and vote on Tuesday.

Under Maine law, the committees set up by Lisa Scott could face a maximum fine equal to the amount spent that’s found to have been misreported or reported late – which means as much as $4.3 million. The largest fine ever issued by the commission, which has jurisdiction over the state’s campaign finance laws, is just under $60,000.

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

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