Investigative records released by the Maine ethics commission contradict sworn testimony by key figures in the York County casino campaign describing the role of Shawn Scott in providing the money to get the casino proposal on Tuesday’s ballot.

The records include financial reports and scores of emails that reveal how Scott and his business partners, including one based in Cambodia, were fronting the cash and making key decisions for the $4.5 million drive to gather the signatures that put the casino question before Maine voters.

Shawn Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott, who formed the committee that launched the campaign, and Augusta lobbyist Cheryl Timberlake, who served as its treasurer, gave conflicting accounts Tuesday to the five-member ethics commission about Shawn Scott’s role and what they knew about it. But the emails, released by the commission late Wednesday, show there were detailed communications among the Scotts, Timberlake and a bevy of associates as the effort unfolded.

On Friday, the commission will meet to set fines for the committee, Horseracing Jobs Fairness, for violating state campaign finance laws by failing to disclose the true source of its funds and by missing deadlines to file reports. Under state law, the fines could be as high as the $4.3 million that the campaign raised and spent. That would shatter the commission’s highest penalty to date, a $57,000 fine against a political action committee that opposed a state gay-marriage referendum.

Shawn Scott recently has stepped into the spotlight in Maine, saying he’s always been the backer and promoter of the casino drive. Thursday night, he hosted an “online town hall,” where visitors to the campaign’s website and social media pages could send him questions and hear him explain the potential benefits of the project.

But the documents released by the ethics panel show an early effort to keep Shawn Scott’s support under wraps – even though the ballot question is worded so that his company is the only one that could be awarded the license for the new casino.

In Jan. 22, 2016, messages between Lisa Scott and Timberlake, for example, Timberlake writes to ask if she can speak to the Portland Press Herald for a story about complaints that some of the petitioners weren’t being paid.

Timberlake implores Lisa Scott to let her tell the campaign’s side of the story, writing, “I only want to set the record straight in regards to John (a petitioner) and his allegations.”

Timberlake then promises to not reveal any details of the campaign’s finances. “I will not discuss the Scot (sic) family, I will not discuss funding for the effort. I need and want to protect my professional name as treasurer for Harness Racing Jobs Fairness, LLC,” she wrote.

Lisa Scott, in turn, sent a blind copy of the message to Shawn Scott, seeking his approval. He responded to his sister, “I think (Timberlake) is on the right track to tell her story. Thank you. Just keep the story on the points she outlines.”

ACCUSATIONS OF FUNDING DECEPTION

State Rep. Louie Luchini, D-Ellsworth, House chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which oversees Maine’s two existing casinos, said the documents released by the commission show the inner workings of a campaign that was designed to deceive.

“Mainers are still in the dark about who was actually financing this campaign, and there is no doubt this absolutely violates the spirit of the citizens’ initiative process,” Luchini said.

He and Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, Senate chairman of the committee, asked the ethics commission to investigate Horseracing Jobs Fairness in April as questions over who was bankrolling the effort continued to mount.

“It’s now clear they were being dishonest on their initial campaign-finance reports and their finances have been nothing but smoke and mirrors,” Luchini said. “Beyond that, there are so many questionable players that were secretly involved in this, it’s pretty disturbing. The fact that they are now all turning on each other shows this is a really serious matter – this is messy.”

On Thursday, Timberlake issued a statement through her attorney, Avery Day, responding to statements made by Lisa Scott and her attorney, Bruce Merrill, who have suggested Timberlake was not being honest with the commission.

“Over the past two decades, I have built a successful Maine business based on my reputation for detail-oriented, effective advocacy,” Timberlake said. “I’m disappointed that this has become personal. I am fully confident that the work I did on this matter was of the high caliber I am known for in Augusta.”

TRACKING THE MONEY TRANSFERS

The investigative records also for the first time detail the involvement of another of Shawn Scott’s business associates, Toko Kobayashi.

Kobayashi heads New Consolidated Max World, a real estate development firm in Cambodia, and was responsible for wiring large sums of cash to Lisa Scott via another company that Kobayashi operates in Japan, called Regent Able Associates.

Emails among Kobayashi, Lisa Scott and a Kobayashi employee show Kobayashi directing Lisa Scott on how to file detailed requests for financial reimbursements.

Yet none of the reports filed for the ballot question committees formed and headed by Lisa Scott in Maine reflect Kobayashi’s involvement or in-kind work by his employee. Instead funds from Kobayashi were wired to another company formed by Lisa Scott, which in turn funneled the funds to the ballot question committee Horseracing Jobs Fairness. That committee initially reported the donations as though they were from Lisa Scott directly, but later amended its reports and formed additional ballot question committees for each of the companies passing the funds along, as well as a ballot committee for Lisa Scott individually.

Kobayashi also was loaning or donating funds to Lisa Scott through the same company, Miami Development Concepts, LLC, in an unsuccessful effort to get a casino ballot question approved for Revere, Massachusetts, in 2016. The committee that Lisa Scott formed there to support the campaign was fined $125,000 by Bay State regulators for, among other things, “receiving contributions in a manner intended to disguise the true source of the funds.”

During her testimony to the commission at a 12-hour hearing Tuesday, Lisa Scott said there was never any attempt to conceal Shawn Scott’s involvement in the campaign and that it has always been well-known that he was financing the effort.

Shawn Scott recently has taken on the role of campaign front man, holding news conferences, giving interviews to reporters and promising that he’s in it for the long haul and has no intention of selling off the rights to the casino license, if it’s approved.

“Throughout this campaign, we’ve tried to make it easy for voters to stay informed about the benefits of Question 1, and this is just another example of our commitment to be as accessible as possible throughout Maine,” he said in a written statement about the online town hall session.

During that session Thursday night, Scott repeatedly criticized the Oxford Casino for engaging in a “mudslinging contest” and “character assassination,” alleging that the casino was trying to prevent competition by raising questions about him and his project.

“That’s what motivated me to come out and speak out about this project,” Scott said.

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

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