PAC with ties to China joins campaign for new southern Maine casino
AUGUSTA, Maine — A company apparently tied to China disclosed that it’s backing the campaign for a new Maine casino Monday — a move likely to frustrate state ethics watchdogs investigating millions in offshore dollars already dumped into the effort.
The effort to get voters to approve a York County casino in the November election has been run to date by Lisa Scott of Miami. A company controlled by Shawn Scott, her brother, is the only one allowed to operate the casino, based on the way the ballot question is written. But she may be taking a step back.
On Monday, a new political action committee called Progress For Maine registered to support the casino ballot question. A Maine harness racer chairs the PAC, but the filing to the Maine Ethics Commission says the group that founded it is a New York City company called Atlantic & Pacific Realty Capital LLC.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai’s website says that company is controlled by Koa Overseas Consultants, Ltd., a Chinese consulting firm that supports the American EB-5 program, which provides green cards to foreign investors giving $1 million in many cases to new businesses.
It’s unclear if the backers of the referendum have changed. Shawn Scott, a U.S. Virgin Islands developer, is linked to a network of offshore companies. But Progress for Maine looks to be setting up a campaign apparatus, listing a not-yet-operational website in their ethics filing.
Rumiko Yoneyama, the registered agent for a company called Progress For Maine that formed here last month, declined comment when reached late Monday night. Lisa Scott and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who runs Lisa Scott’s political committee, didn’t respond to an email then.
So far, the campaign has been controversial: The ethics commission voted in June to probe the bid’s funding after Lisa Scott disclosed that $4.3 million in campaign funds that filings initially said came from her came from a company controlled by her brother and a Japanese company — in apparent violation of Maine law.
That Shawn Scott-controlled company — Las Vegas-based Capital Seven, LLC — would operate the new casino. He ran a successful 2003 campaign that persuaded voters to allow slots at a Bangor facility. But he sold it for $51 million in 2004 without getting a license to operate in Maine after a damning regulatory report. It became Hollywood Casino.
Bridge Capital, a Scott company in the U.S. Pacific commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, had a casino seized and sold by Laos in 2015. It was behind a failed Massachusetts referendum in 2016 that agreed to pay $125,000 in penalties for concealing contributions.
It also runs its own EB-5 offshoot. That program has long been criticized over cases of corruption and poor coordination with local officials. But it has been used more since the 2008-09 recession made it harder to get bank financing, the Brookings Institution said in 2014.
The new PAC is chaired by Charlene Cushing of Farmington, who the Sun Journal profiled in 2013 as one of Maine’s few female harness racers. She didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on Monday and Tuesday.
Her involvement is a political signal: Lisa Scott has pitched the casino as a boon for Maine’s struggling harness racing industry, which would get 10 percent of slot machine revenue under the proposal.
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