How A Former Ethics Commission Member Ended Up On The York County Casino Campaign’s Payroll
This summer, the campaign to approve a casino in York County hired former Maine Attorney General Andrew Ketterer to represent its interests in an investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission.
Ketterer’s role in the campaign is now shifting: Not only is he defending one of the campaign’s chief financial backers in the ethics probe, but he’s also been enlisted to tout the casino’s purported economic benefits.
Ketterer served as Maine’s attorney general for five years in the late ’90s. After that he went back to running his own law practice in Norridgewock. He’s now working for Progress for Maine or, more specifically, Shawn Scott.
Scott first brought gambling to Maine 17 years ago with a slots parlor in Bangor. But this year he and his associates have turned their attention to York County, spending millions of dollars to convince Mainers to approve Question 1.
That question allows Scott — and only Scott — to create another gambling facility at a location that has yet to be disclosed.
“I am certainly a proponent of Question 1. I’ve studied the issue pretty carefully and I think it’s a good choice for Maine,” he said.
During a brief interview at a law office in Portland, Ketterer went on to tout the campaign’s promised economic benefits: construction and hospitality jobs, tax revenues to the state and a boost in tourism from a resortlike facility that support concerts and conventions.
“It would certainly include gaming, nobody’s hiding behind that saying, ‘Oh there’s no gaming that would be going on here.’ Certainly it would be,” he said.
Gaming is the focus of the ballot initiative, but the campaign isn’t exactly stressing it in its advertising. A television spot airing on local networks mentions the word gaming exactly once, instead focusing on fairs, conventions and a four-season resort, despite there being nothing in the ballot initiative requiring investment in such amenities.
“Well, there’s no guarantees in life and this would be an example of that,” he said.
Ketterer said it’s in a developer’s interest to support nongambling investments. But others, including several state lawmakers, have their doubts, believing Shawn Scott will simply sell the casino license much like he did in Bangor, which netted a reported $51 million.
Ketterer’s advocacy for the casino could give the campaign a much-needed boost of legitimacy. After he left the attorney general's office in 2000, he served on the Maine Ethics Commission, the very same agency that’s investigating the casino campaign and its complex network of domestic and offshore funding sources.
Part of the ethics commission’s job is to ensure the public knows who is funding campaigns — and Ketterer once led the transparency effort. He assessed fines for late fillings or nondisclosure, including against previous casino campaigns.
Now he’s working for a casino campaign accused of hiding its funding sources for over a year.
“Well, the only thing I can say is it’s an interesting cause and the client that our firm represents, Capital Seven, complied fully with everything that the Ethics Commission requested. They’re in compliance with the law,” he said, asked how he reconciles these divergent roles.
Ketterer tried to make a distinction between the corporation he’s representing and others that could receive a hefty fine by the Ethics Commission. But all of the entities in the probe have ties to Shawn Scott, the man paying Ketterer.
The campaign — facing withering scrutiny and criticism — could clearly benefit publicly from having a former attorney general on the payroll. And so far, Scott and associates have spared no expense, spending over $4 million just to get on the ballot and now paying door-to-door canvassers $20 an hour.
Ketterer won’t say how much the campaign is paying him, but the public is about to find out — a new round of campaign finance reports are due Thursday.