Maine ethics watchdog will try to force casino campaign to show its cards today

Good morning from Augusta, where we may learn a lot more about the backers of the York County casino initiative during what looks like will be a marathon 9 a.m. hearing before the Maine Ethics Commission.

The ethics panel may reach a decision on penalizing the proponents of Question 1 on the 2017 ballot on Tuesday and will hear from the top backer’s sister. The commission has been investigating the Question 1 effort since June. It’s coming to a climax a week before Election Day. The campaign is led by Shawn Scott, a Northern Mariana Islands developer who would be the only person who could win the casino under the question’s wording. But he only emerged to head up the public campaign in August. Before that, his sister, Lisa Scott, was running the chief political committee behind it. In April, she disclosed that $4.3 million in campaign money originally attributed to her came from other companies. That prompted the probe. Lisa Scott will testify before the commission on Tuesday.

We’re expecting a long meeting before the commission. The commission’s executive director, Jonathan Wayne, said in a notice that the body will consider three main questions: Whether Lisa Scott and two other companies should have registered with the state and filed campaign finance reports, whether the Lisa Scott-led political committee’s reports should be considered late and whether other groups should have filed finance reports. Those decisions could be made today or at a later date. In a Monday meeting, the commission rejected a request from casino backers to delay a decision until after the election.

Scott will hold a well-timed Portland news conference at 11 a.m. Scott has mostly taken a non-public role in the campaign until a recent batch of radio interviews. We’ve tried to interview him and haven’t succeeded. But Progress for Maine announced that he’d appear at a media availability in the campaign’s Portland office today at 11 a.m. That, of course, will be right in the middle of the ethics commission meeting. (We’re still covering the meeting.)

Another member of LePage’s inner circle gone

Kathleen Newman, longtime deputy chief of staff for Gov. Paul LePage, has left his administration. Rumors of her departure had circulated for more than a week, but LePage’s communications staff did not respond to media questions about Newman then and issued only a terse release on Monday. Newman joined the administration soon after LePage took office in 2011. A former lobbyist for Maine’s builders and contractors, she served as his point person in often tense negotiations with the Legislature.

Reading list

  • Nearly 500,000 Mainers lost power after Monday’s wind and rain storm — more than in the infamous ice storm of 1998. Storm damage was worst along the coast, with more than 75 percent of customers in Waldo, Penobscot, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Hancock losing power.  Central Maine Power said 60 percent of its customers lost power on Monday. Outages were down to around 400,000 on Tuesday morning, but officials warned Monday that it could be days before power is fully restored. As always, check weather-related cancellations here.
  • A former aide to President Donald Trump has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents and the president’s former campaign manager and an associate were indicted on Monday. The plea from George Papadopolous, an attorney who was a Trump foreign policy adviser, came after the FBI said that he lied to them shortly after the president’s inauguration when he said he didn’t contact a foreign professor who claimed to have Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails while he was working with Trump. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and an aide, Rick Gates, pleaded not guilty to several charges related to funneling money through foreign accounts to evade U.S. taxes. Their case doesn’t link Trump’s campaign to Russia.
  • Help the BDN cover the 2017 election. Confused about something that’s coming up on the Nov. 7 ballot? Whether it’s a statewide or a local question, we want to help! Submit your questions to the BDN by the end of the day Wednesday and we’ll find the answers and publish them on Sunday, Nov. 5. Click here to ask your question and we’ll take over from there. Here’s your soundtrack.

Who moved the cheese?

You might have been distracted Monday by the Great Gale of ‘17, Trump campaign staff being indicted or trying to find power sources. So we will give you a pass on missing the big news story of the day: Google put the cheese under the burger on its cheeseburger emoji.

Luckily, the company’s leaders said they would “drop everything” to correct a problem that clearly threatens global stability. We wish they would respond as quickly when we flag problems with Google Docs, but that’s a complaint for another day.

Is cheese on the bottom of a burger such a bad thing? Obviously, it would stick to the grill if you tried to put it there in mid-sizzle. But upon serving, does the placement of the cheese really matter? Here’s a soundtrack to help you as you ponder that existential question.

I turn my burgers this way and that as I shove them into my mouth, trying to limit spillage, although I do have five or six shirts with stylish grease stains on the front as evidence of my failure on that score.

I can’t taste the difference between a burger served with cheese on the top or cheese on the bottom. Can you? And while we’re on this topic, let’s revisit the great “is a hot dog a sandwich?” debate. Here’s your soundtrack to solve any burger or frank controversy. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.