Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker, R- Ocean View, Monday called for the resignation of the chair of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council Michael Houghton. Houghton, meanwhile, said he plans to continue helping the state address challenges caused by the pandemic.
Hocker, the Senate Minority Leader, said a review of campaign financial disclosures and the distribution of partisan campaign literature in an upstate race led him to speak out.
“DEFAC was set up to be a bipartisan, non-politically affiliated council that projects Delaware’s financial well-being. Unfortunately, Mr. Houghton is a major contributor to both Democrat and Democrat-affiliated political action committees.”
Houghton countered: “I have been an active Democrat for over 30 years and that has been well known to both Republican and Democratic policy makers for decades. I have also functioned in the Delaware legal and business community, in leadership roles – as State Bar President and as a member of the State Chamber of Commerce Board, for example – with a reputation for being balanced, even-handed. I have consistently chaired DEFAC in the same fashion.”
Houghton also mentioned that Republicans and Democrats both serve on DEFAC, including legislators from each party. “We serve together, collegially, and our task is to review factual financial data and trends and make objective recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature based on facts and information. The veracity and accuracy of the facts and recommendations presented by DEFAC during my tenure has, to my knowledge, not been challenged.”
Hocker cited reports filed to the Delaware Department of Elections which indicated that Houghton made an opening contribution of $3,500 to PAC302 in August 2018 and a $10,000 payment to Facts Matter PAC in September 2020. PAC302’s stated purpose, according to Hocker, is to provide financial support to Delaware Democratic candidates. Facts Matter PAC released campaign leaflets criticizing a sitting Republican senator that Hocker called “misleading.”
“The routing of funds to partisan organizations and Democrat candidates calls into question DEFAC’s credibility, particularly during a time when we are to trust its financial projections during a global pandemic,” Hocker added. “Mr. Houghton is certainly allowed to donate personal money to whatever and whomever he pleases, but he shouldn’t do so while chairing a bipartisan and apolitical committee.”
Houghton stated that his focus as Chair of DEFAC has been, and remains, “helping to provide useful and accurate information to policy makers – the Governor and the Legislature – to weather the economic challenges Delaware faces in the wake of a pandemic. My work as Chair of the Advisory Panel to DEFAC addressing budget smoothing helped create – with the support of Governor Carney and then-Treasurer Republican Ken Simpler, among other Republicans – a nearly $170 million fund used this past year to cushion the effects of declining revenues, using money generated in good times to address budget problems in tougher times.”
While Hocker reiterated that he believes Houghton should step down – and that Carney should replace him if he does not – Houghton said “I’m proud of the balanced, even handed job I’ve done as DEFAC Chair. Going forward, I plan to render additional service, helping address ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.”