State: No wrongdoing by PAC formed by Democratic Senate leaders

DOVER, Del. — A political committee set up by Democratic leaders in the state Senate did not violate campaign finance laws in donating to a Democratic lawmaker vying for an open Senate seat, Delaware’s election commissioner ruled Monday.
The ruling by Commissioner Elaine Manlove involves an entity called C-11, which was formed in September at the behest of Senate president pro tem David McBride and Majority Whip Nicole Poore.
Justin King, a Republican running for the Dover-area Senate seat, filed a complaint last week challenging a $2,000 donation the committee made last month to his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Trey Paradee.
Paradee said in an email Monday that he has never had any conversations with McBride or Poore about the formation or operation of the committee, and that they have not asked him to support them for Senate leadership positions.
“I believe Senator Poore mentioned to me that I would be getting a check from some committee a few days before the check arrived, but, as I mentioned to you when we last spoke, I was confused about the origin and the legality of the C-11 check when I first received it,” Paradee wrote.
Under Delaware law, political action committees are limited to donating $600 to House and Senate candidates, but C-11 was formed as a “political committee,” not a PAC.
“The party was asked for its blessing for them to proceed to form this committee under the party, and we gave them our blessing,” Democratic Party executive director Jesse Chadderon said last week.
“They didn’t give a reason, and we didn’t ask them for a reason,” he added.
McBride and Poore have not returned telephone and email messages. Instead, Frank Murphy, a lawyer for Senate Democrats, spoke on their behalf. While not personally involved in the committee’s formation, Murphy took part in subsequent meetings and said it has “no hidden agenda.”
“The committee was formed so that there would be a focus on Senate Democratic candidates in this election period,” he said last week.

Trey Paradee

However, all of the committee’s reported funding, $24,100, has come from two political action committees formed in February with similar goals: DE Senate Pac and Senate D Pac. Both PACs, in turn, have received significant funding from labor unions.
Patrick Allen, a lobbyist with strong Democratic ties, is treasurer of all three. The chief of staff for the Senate Majority Caucus, Debra Allen, who is not related to Patrick, is also listed an officer for all three entities.
Patrick Allen did not return a phone call seeking comment, but Murphy said Allen does not control C-11.
“He’s the treasurer. That doesn’t give him control,” said Murphy.
Murphy said those involved in decision-making include McBride, Poore and Jim Hussey, a former labor union officer who is also has served for several years as vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.
“I’m pretty sure that it was Jim Hussey who explained to me that C-11 was considered a part of the Democratic Party and that the $2,000 check would count towards my $5,000 maximum from party sources,” Paradee said.
While purportedly set up to help all Democratic Senate candidates, C-11 has made only one reported donation, to Paradee. Murphy said the committee has made additional contributions since filing its most recent campaign finance report last Wednesday.
Chadderon said he was unaware of any similar political committee in Delaware, where political committees traditionally are just smaller geographic units of a statewide party. He also suggested that state law needs to be changed because, currently, a person does not need the approval of a party to form a political committee that is purportedly a unit of that party.
“It doesn’t take a lot of cunning for someone who has nefarious motives to exploit this,” he said. “That is not to say that we are angry at the Senate in any way, shape or form about the formation of C-11.”
Chadderon declined to say whether he was troubled by the involvement in C-11 of the lobbyist, Patrick Allen.
He said the party doesn’t control a committee’s decision-making once it is formed.

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