AUGUSTA — A failed campaign to bring Maine a third casino in York County shelled out about $146 for every vote it won in November, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the state’s ethics commission.

The political action committee Progress for Maine and a series of affiliated ballot question committees that funded a two-year voter signature drive spent a combined $8.4 million on a citizen initiative that lost in a massive landslide on Election Day. Only 57,280 voters supported the casino, compared to 285,372 who rejected it, an 83-17 percent margin that made the loss one of the most lopsided in recent Maine electoral history. About $5 million of the $8.4 million was devoted to the campaign in support of the ballot question, while the balance was spent collecting the voter signatures needed to get the proposal on the ballot.

The per vote spending on the casino referendum dwarfs the amount spent on other recent citizen initiatives. For example, proponents of expanding Medicaid, another question on the Nov. 7 ballot, spent $9.37 per vote in their successful effort to make an additional 80,000 Mainers eligible for MaineCare coverage. And in 2016, proponents of legalizing recreational use of marijuana spent $7.28 per vote in their winning campaign.

CRITICISM AND CONTROVERSY

The casino campaign was bankrolled largely by international gambling entrepreneur Shawn Scott and a series of offshore companies and business associates with ties to Scott and his sister, Lisa Scott. The ballot question was written in a way that only Shawn Scott’s company, Capital Seven, could be granted a license for the casino had voters approved it.

Shawn Scott is largely known in Maine for bringing the state its first casino in Bangor, which was approved by voters in 2003. Scott sold the rights to the casino license for $51 million to Penn National, which still operates the facility as Hollywood Casino.

A Bad Deal for Maine, the PAC formed to oppose the York County casino, spent $687,696 or about $2.40 for each vote on its side. The opposition PAC was funded almost entirely by the owners of the Oxford Casino, the Kentucky-based Churchill Downs.

The PAC supporting the casino spent much of its funding on teams of public relations firms and political consultants, including firms in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Boston. The campaign poured money into television and online advertising, hired day workers from PeopleReady to canvass neighborhoods in the waning days of the campaign, and dropped close to $10,000 in advertising on the social media platform Twitter, the campaign finance report shows.

The opposition campaign, run by political consultants based in Florida and New Hampshire, spent money painting a picture of Shawn Scott as “Shady Shawn,” drawing attention to his background as a controversial developer of casinos in the U.S. and around the globe. Both sides criticized one another for being from outside of Maine or for supporting out-of-state interests.

The four ballot question committees formed by Lisa Scott to finance the petition drive became the subjects of investigations by state lawmakers as well as the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices. The commission levied a record-breaking $500,000 fine against Lisa Scott and Augusta-based lobbyist Cheryl Timberlake, who served as the treasurer of Horseracing Jobs Fairness, one of the four ballot question committees formed by Lisa Scott, for inaccurately reporting the source of their funding and for missing by months the reporting deadlines set up in state law.

REPORTS ON MEDICAID CAMPAIGN FUNDING

On Wednesday, the commission unanimously approved its final findings in that investigation, clearing the way for lawyers representing Lisa Scott and Timberlake to appeal the fines in court.

Also filed this week were post-election campaign finance reports for PACs on both sides of the Medicaid expansion question, which was approved by 59 percent of voters. Proponent groups spent $2.2 million trying to win votes, with $1.9 million coming from Mainers for Health Care, the ballot question committee set up to promote the expansion. Much of the PAC’s funding came from large out-of-state healthcare organizations, including in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

In opposition, the Welfare to Work PAC, which was supported by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, spent about $385,000. The largest donations came from several prominent Maine business people, including George Schott, a real estate developer and owner of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in Lewiston who gave $50,000; and Linda Bean, an heir of the L.L. Bean family and entrepreneur who gave $25,000.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: thisdog

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