LEWISTON — CasinosNO!, an anti-gambling political action committee, has filed an ethics complaint against Peter Martin, spokesman and consultant for Black Bear Entertainment, the group backing an effort to build a casino in Oxford County.
Dennis Bailey, executive director of CasinosNO!, officially registered his complaint to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices in a letter dated April 7.
Peter Martin spent enough time lobbying on behalf of the casino legislation that he should have registered with the state as a lobbyist, Bailey said.
People who spend more than eight hours in a calendar month speaking to lawmakers or legislative staff, or working on drafting legislation or testimony, must register with the state as lobbyists, according to Maine law.
“It has come to our attention that Mr. Martin spent a considerable amount of time during the recent session of the Legislature working on a compromise competing measure for the Oxford County casino referendum, as well as work for the original casino proposal itself,” Bailey wrote.
People also must get paid for their work to be considered lobbyists, which also concerned Bailey. When he filed his complaint, he could not find any reported payments to Martin for his work in any state record.
“It seems unlikely to us that Mr. Martin is simply a volunteer with no compensation agreement with Black Bear Entertainment,” Bailey wrote.
Martin registered as a lobbyist on April 7, the same day the complaint was filed, according to public records,
Martin wrote a letter to Maine ethics commission staff in response to being notified of the complaint on April 13.
He had been aware of the eight-hour lobbying limit and discussed the matter with a lawyer at the end of March but decided he had not exceeded the limit, Martin wrote. But upon receiving the ethics complaint, Martin decided to register that day.
“I fully believe I have stayed within the guideline of the Maine ethics commission and have violated no rules or statutes,” Martin wrote. “This endeavor will cost millions by the time it reaches the November vote and it would be ludicrous for me, who also serves as their spokesperson, to avoid paying a $200 registration fee, considering what was at risk, and it makes me wonder about the real intent of the complaint Mr. Bailey and his organization, given his past actions and that of CasinosNO!”
A lawyer for Black Bear Entertainment responded to ethics commission staff on April 15 regarding Martin's compensation, filing amendments to two previous PAC reports.
Dan Walker amended the January report to include a $50,000 payment made to Atlantic Strategies, a consulting group formed by Martin. Walker said the payment was made from Black Bear Entertainment's money market account and not it's checking account, and thus did not get reported as it normally would have.
Walker also amended the April PAC report to reflect that in February, Black Bear Entertainment gave Atlantic Strategies 5 percent ownership interest in the company, as part of their agreed-upon payment scheme.
Because the payment was not monetary in nature, there was no proper filing form to reflect the transaction, Walker said in explaining the omission.
PACs are required to report all expenditures, which include promised or agreed-upon payments, which should be disclosed on reporting forms as unpaid debts, according to Maine law.
The complaint will be considered by the commission during its regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday in Augusta.