AUGUSTA — The Maine Ethics Commission unanimously agreed Thursday to push forward with a new subpoena for personal financial records from Lisa Scott, a Miami-based real estate developer who has funneled at least $4.2 million into a campaign aimed at bringing a third casino to Maine in York County.

The five-member commission, which has oversight of campaign finance disclosure law, first voted to investigate the campaign in June, but a series of objections from an attorney for Scott has delayed the release of key financial records. The commission says it needs those records to determine the source of the money Scott spent on getting the ballot question before voters. Such disclosures are required under state law.

Thursday’s vote to reject parts of objections from Scott over disclosure of personal financial records is the latest action in a string of votes by the commission, including a July decision to give Scott more time to comply with an earlier subpoena for information.

The commission began scrutinizing the money behind the casino effort because the campaign didn’t comply with state law governing campaign finance reports.

The campaign initially registered one ballot question committee, Horseracing Jobs Fairness, which listed Lisa Scott as the sole donor to the ballot initiative effort. But amended disclosure filings, made in April as ordered by the ethics commission, showed the money came not just from Lisa Scott but also from several other donors who gave her money. The campaign issued a statement saying Scott didn’t understand the reporting requirements.

Scott then registered three additional ballot question committees with the commission: one for herself and two for companies she owns, which also donated to the campaign.

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.

OVERREACH ALLEGED

Bruce Merrill, an attorney for Lisa Scott, told the commission Thursday that his client should not have to turn over financial records that are unrelated to the casino campaign, even though she appears to have given money to the campaign directly from her own personal bank accounts and through a pair of companies she owns, Miami Development Corp. and International Development Corp. Those companies also have been registered with the ethics commission as ballot question committees. Lisa Scott is also the principle officer in Horseracing Jobs Fairness.

“I really think it gets to the point of the overbreadth where the commission is asking for records that have nothing to do with this initiative. I don’t understand why another business venture that (Miami Development Corp.) would be involved in would in any way be relevant to this initiative, that’s why I’ve made the objection to turning over records that have to do with her other business ventures that clearly are not related in any way shape or form to the casino initiative that we are dealing with here,” Merrill said.

He added he believed the request was beyond the commission’s jurisdiction.

Merrill also voiced skepticism that the commission would ultimately be able to keep personal financial data unrelated to the campaign in confidence.

Commissioners said Lisa Scott’s financial data that may be unrelated to their investigation would be held in confidence under state law, but it was up to them to determine whether those transactions were relevant to its investigation.

“I understand the concern that the ship might leak,” Commissioner William Lee said. “But to my awareness that’s never happened. But it’s hard for me to have (Lisa Scott) arguing, ‘Hey you shouldn’t see this because I’ve mixed my personal records and other business records in with this.’ When we ask for a bank account we want to see the bank account. Whatever it is. She could have completely avoided that risk had the money went directly to Horseracing Jobs Fairness or created a separate entity that had no other existence, and then we wouldn’t be asking for records from something that may have other records mixed in with it. She did this, we didn’t do this.”

NEW COMPLICATION

Complicating matters further for the commission is the entry of a new political action committee, Progress for Maine, that has registered in support of the ballot question campaign. Merrill said he had no knowledge of the new PAC. Progress for Maine also formed a limited liability company in Maine, filing for a license in July.

The PAC’s initial filing and campaign finance report show that it already has accrued more than $330,000 in unpaid debts, mostly from the Washington, D.C.-based political consulting firm Goddard Gunster Inc. The report also shows a California-based company, American General Corporation, made in-kind contributions of over $11,000, most of it for travel expenses in Maine for Michelle Wilson, who is listed as a decision maker on the PAC’s registration. The campaign finance report also notes that Wilson is the director of operations for American General Corporation and so far has made the only cash donation to the PAC – $200 on July 24.

Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the ethics panel, told commissioners an initial review of the PAC and the companies involved through available public resources suggests American General Corporation has had previous dealings with other entities Shawn Scott is involved with, including Capital Seven, one of the donors to the casino campaign.

INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION

A call to officials at the new PAC seeking additional information was not returned Thursday.

An attorney for Capital Seven, which also is believed to be providing funds for the campaign, as well as an attorney for Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who served as the treasurer for Horseracing Jobs Fairness, also said they had no knowledge of or involvement with the new PAC.

While Timberlake has largely complied with a subpoena for her records, Wayne said Thursday that those records did not help advance an understanding of the flow of money from the Scotts or other entities to the campaign. He said that was the primary reason the investigation needed access to Lisa Scott’s bank records.

In another development, Drew Ketterer, a former Maine attorney general who also once served on the ethics commission, entered his appearance as the attorney for Capital Seven. Ketterer said he was not at liberty to talk to the media after the commission’s vote Thursday.

The commission gave Lisa Scott until Sept. 1 to present any additional objections to their latest subpoena, but it remained unclear if Merrill would accept that subpoena. He said she was not available to him on Thursday and he needed to consult with her before entering into any agreement to produce records with the commission, which next meets on Aug. 30.

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

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