LEWISTON — A top political consultant who is the campaign spokesman for Gov. Paul LePage was heavily involved in a failed 2011 attempt to bring a casino to downtown Lewiston.

The Sun Journal has learned that Brent Littlefield was hired by a pair of Maine political action committees to buy airtime on Maine television and radio stations, but his involvement in the campaign went far deeper, according to sources connected to the campaign.

A recent investigation by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices found the PACs formed to support the campaign reported false information about the source of campaign donations. Those PACs and their organizers are face up to $85,000 in civil penalties.

A review of Federal Communications Commission records at two Portland-based television stations show Michaeleen Terrana signed for the airtime purchases on behalf of Dome Messaging. Terrana lists an affiliation with Littlefield’s consulting firm on her professional profile on LinkedIn, a business social media site.

Littlefield, who operated the Arlington, Va.,-based Dome Messaging from a rented mailbox, was given more than $355,000 to produce and purchase television and radio advertising in Maine in support of the casino ballot initiative. That referendum was resoundingly defeated by voters at the polls.

Calls and email messages to Littlefield seeking comment were not returned.

While the ethics investigation determined the PACs misreported where the money came from, they accurately reported it was largely paid to Dome Messaging, according to ethics commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne.

Wayne said it appeared Dome had used the funds as intended.

He did not identify Littlefield, but he said it did not appear any campaign or ethics rules were violated by Dome.

Littlefield’s connection to the pro-casino campaign is in conflict with LePage’s position on gambling expansions in Maine. It’s unclear whether the governor knew Littlefield was working for a campaign that LePage was openly opposing at the time.

Without naming Littlefield or confirming his connection to Dome, campaign organizer Stavros Mendros said it was Dome Messaging that was running the campaign behind the scenes in 2011. When pressed on who was behind Dome Messaging, Mendros wouldn’t say.

“They insisted we don’t tell,” Mendros said. “It may very well come out, but I can’t do it because there’s teeth in that non-disclosure (agreement).”

Littlefield and Mendros have known each other for years, going back to their college days at the University of Maine where they were involved in campus politics.

During the casino campaign and in the months following, Littlefield and other campaign workers shielded his connection to the casino bid. Littlefield’s official website, Littlefield and Associates Consulting, touts his 2010 work for LePage’s election but makes no mention of the 2011 casino referendum.

Mendros said last week he was led to believe the donations were coming from a Georgia-based company, GT Source, even though he knew another company, M5, had been formed in Maine and that its principals were negotiating a contract to operate the casino if it were approved.

One of the primary shareholders of M5, formed as a Limited Liability Corp. in Maine in 2011, was also the CEO of GT Source, Dwayne Graham.

The ethics investigation determined that Graham never contributed to the PACs, despite statements he made to the Sun Journal in 2011 that his company was helping to finance the campaign.

M5’s principal owners included Scott Nash and Ryan Hill, both Maryland-based businessmen involved in casino gambling and slot machine technology, as well as Chase Burns, an Oklahoma-based businessman with ties to casino gambling, according to a memo written by Wayne.

In June, Burns was linked to a gambling scandal involving a yacht in Florida that was purchased to “entertain politicians,” according to the Oklahoman newspaper.

Burns has denied any wrongdoing in the scandal, which led to the resignation of Florida’s lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, in March.

The ethics investigation also discovered that Graham and his company, GT Source, despite being a shareholder in M5, never made any monetary contributions to the new LLC.

Mendros said Dome took control of the campaign and even insisted on creating another PAC, the People of Lewiston-Auburn Committee, headed by former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert and former Lewiston police Chief Bill Welch.

Mendros also said Peter Robinson, who was listed as treasurer for the first PAC, Green Jobs for ME, was not really controlling any PAC expenditures; he was simply reporting them via the state’s campaign-finance disclosure system.

“He didn’t really do what a treasurer would do,” Mendros said. “He wasn’t in control of the purse strings. It was really those guys who did everything. I basically had my entire project taken from me because the only way this group, M5, would agree to funding this project was if everything went through Dome. Dome was in complete control of everything.”

Dome Messaging first appeared on the expenditure side of the PAC’s required financial reports in early 2011. The reports did not show who owned Dome, but the agency’s website is registered anonymously via a web-hosting company in Pennsylvania. 

Dome is listed as having an Arlington, Va., address. The address is home to a UPS Store. During the casino campaign, a clerk at the store said Dome rented a mailbox there, but state and federal law prevented him from revealing to whom the mailbox was rented.

Meanwhile, a clerk with the state of Virginia’s Corporations Commission said Dome did not appear to hold any official papers of incorporation and was not registered as doing business in Virginia.

Another check with the city of Arlington showed the company had no business licenses with the city, but a clerk said that if it were operating out of a mailbox, it would not be required to be licensed. The same clerk said that if the company were collecting money in Virginia, however, it should be registered with the state for tax purposes.

The Maine ethics commission was expected to take up the issue of the false reporting of contributions to the two PACs during its regular meeting set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, but that meeting has been postponed because they were having trouble scheduling witnesses in the case, Wayne said.

A new date for the commission’s hearing on the matter had not been set as of Friday, Wayne stated via email.

[email protected]

Related stories:

Maine’s Ethics Commission to recommend fines for PACs that backed Lewiston casino campaign

Lewiston casino campaigners may get penalty reprieve in campaign finance case

Georgia-based slot machine maker helps back Lewiston casino campaign

Signatures and suitors: Lewiston casino plan moves forward

Signatures, Inc.

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