A Wilmington lawyer plans to remain as chair of the state’s financial advisory panel despite a state senator demanding that he step down.
State Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, called for the immediate resignation of the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council’s (DEFAC) chair, Michael Houghton.Hocker is the Senate minority leader.
“DEFAC was set up to be a bipartisan, non-politically affiliated council that projects Delaware’s financial well-being,” Hocker stated. “Unfortunately, Mr. Houghton is a major contributor to both Democrat candidates and Democrat-affiliated political action committees.”
Houghton, Wilmington corporate lawyer, with the firm Morris, Nichols, Arsht and Tunnel, is a former president of the Delaware State Bar Association.
Houghton said in a phone interview that he intends to continue to serve as DEFAC Chair and will focus on budget challenges stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
Houghton, stressing his bipartisan role as DEFAC chair, noted that he worked with former Republican State Treasurer Ken Simpler in a “budget smoothing” process that sets aside a portion of state revenues for use during economic downturns.
The budget smoothing process has drawn fire from some Democratic legislators who want funds allocated for other purposes. The extra revenue helped Delaware avoid a financial crisis in the past legislative session.
Hocker, a Sussex County grocery store owner, cited reports filed with the Delaware Department of Elections over a contribution of $3,500 to PAC302 on August 14, 2018 and a $10,000 payment to Facts Matter PAC on September 24, 2020.
Hocker claimed Facts Matter PAC recently distributed misleading literature attacking a Republican senator.Hocker also stated that Houghton had contributed thousands of dollars directly to campaigns of Democratic candidates.
“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,” Hocker stated. “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.”
DEFAC was created by former Governor Pete du Pont in 1977 to act as a bipartisan council to project Delaware’s annual revenue.
Members of DEFAC do not make policy but instead serves in an advisory role. The council, which includes legislators, studies budget projects, looks at trends and passes along comments and recommendations.
The council’s projections have been accepted by representatives of both parties over the decades.