GOP senator criticizes chairman of revenue panel for campaign donations

DOVER — The Delaware Senate minority leader is calling on the head of the panel that sets the state’s revenue forecasts to resign over campaign contributions.

Mike Houghton, who has chaired the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council since 2017, has given tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and campaigns over the years. A prominent lawyer at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP, Mr. Houghton is a close ally of Gov. John Carney, who named him chairman.

“This 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,” Sen. Gerald Hocker, an Ocean View Republican, said in a statement.

“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. To restore faith in the Council’s work, Mr. Houghton should step down immediately. If not, Governor Carney must replace him.”

Michael Houghton

Created in 1977 by Republican Gov. Pete du Pont, DEFAC has been credited with helping the state maintain solid financial footing. It is indeed designed to be as apolitical as possible, with a mix of both Democrats and Republicans, including several elected officials. However, other chairmen have also contributed money to Democratic campaigns over the past 20 years.

Mr. Houghton shot down claims of impropriety, describing the criticism as typical campaign season rhetoric and expressing confidence he has not let politics interfere with DEFAC’s work.

“I’ve been an active Democrat in Delaware for over 30 years and never made a secret about my political affiliation or engagement. Having said that, in my involvement in organizations like DEFAC, I have always been bipartisan and have functioned in a completely evenhanded and fair way, taking my responsibility in helping to provide information to the administration seriously,” he said.

Mr. Houghton, who also sits on the board of directors for the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation, noted that he has pushed for bipartisan fiscal restraint in the form of what is essentially a savings account that can be opened when revenues dip.

Gov. Carney’s office declined to comment.