As the state revs into high gear during the mud-slinging phase of the 2020 election, Delaware Democrats have accused a Republican businessman of being “anti-worker” for supporting political action committees aligned with the GOP.
The Delaware Democrats said in a press release that Chris Kenny is trying to buy the Delaware State Senate and that he has committed nearly $500,000 to three PACs, including A Better Delaware PAC — benefiting candidates Cathy Cloutier, Anthony Delcollo and Dave Lawson. All three are incumbents.
Kenny, whose family owns area Shoprite grocery stores, also owns DelawareLIVE, which includes Town Square Live and Milford Live.
“A Better Delaware isn’t pro-business; it’s anti-worker,” said Delaware Democratic Party Chair Erik Raser-Schramm in the press release. “It is a conservative organization that is desperate to thwart future increases to Delaware’s minimum wage, opposes expanded benefits like paid family leave, and in the state with the lowest tax burden in America, is an advocate for further tax breaks for wealthy corporations that would make it impossible to properly fund things like education reform. As they attempt to buy these three Senate seats, Delawareans should be concerned about the kind of legislation they’re buying in the process.”
Kenny declined to comment and referred questions to Zoe Callaway, executive director of A Better Delaware.
“ABD PAC abides by all rules and regulations, and are engaging in the exact same free speech activities that many similar groups that support Democratic candidates have engaged in and continue to engage in to this day,” Callaway said in a statement Wednesday. “Their complaint is totally frivolous and wildly hypocritical.”
Kenny’s political intentions have been widely speculated about since he helped found A Better Delaware, started his own website and founded DelawareLive. He is a lawyer as well as president and CEO of the grocery stores. Many expected him to be a candidate in the 2020 elections. He was not.
The Democrats’ press release about Kenny came the day after State Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, called for the resignation of Michael Houghton, chairman of the powerful Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council. Hocker said the role should be impartial and that Houghton could not be because he has donated thousands of dollars to Democrat candidates and political action committees. One of those PACs paid for an attack on Delcollo.
Houghton said his role as an active Democrat had never impacted his objective and bipartisan role as DEFAC chairman.
The Democrats said in their press release Tuesday that recently filed campaign finance reports show A Better Delaware PAC spent nearly $180,000 in independent expenditures between Aug. 29 and Oct. 7. The filings also show that Cloutier, Delcollo and Lawson have benefited from as many as eight mail pieces and two digital ad campaigns, with three weeks still to go, the Democrats charged.
The support comes as candidates across the state have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic to raise the same kind of money that they did before it. That’s partly because of job and economic woes and partly because it’s not possible to have rallies and events to raise money. The Democrats point to records that show Cloutier raised $12,000 this year, Lawson raised $26,500 and Delcollo tallied $38,000.
The Democrats also said the Kenny Family Shoprite stores contributed to the K3C PAC, which has spent thousands of dollars on incendiary mailers targeting Kent County Democrats.
“These Republicans are willfully skirting campaign finance laws by knowingly outsourcing their campaign communications to A Better Delaware PAC,” Raser-Schramm said. “The fact that these campaigns are doing virtually no political advertising of their own indicates they knew that assistance would be coming from a dark money entity like A Better Delaware and it raises questions about what kind of influence the campaigns had over that messaging.”
The Democrats contended the arrangement violated part of the state code that defines independent expenditures.