Poring over campaign finance reports is tedious but it can informative when you recognize the names of certain donors or companies. For example, Sam Guy, a candidate for State Senator in the 2nd Senate District, and a Democrat, getting a maximum primary donation of $600 from Republican Senator Colin Bonini. What game is being played there? Is Colin perhaps courting a future Senator in a closely divided State Senate?
Then you have Kathy Jennings, a Democratic candidate for Attorney General. You can say she is the establishment’s pick for the office, and thus, as such, she has received more corporate and institutional donations. For example, her latest reports reveal donations from JP Morgan Chase, Pfizer and the Delaware City Refinery.
Her primary opponent Chris Johnson’s campaign manager, Sarah Fulton, rightfully points out that these donations may be a conflict of interest if your goal as Attorney General is to fight the opioid epidemic, an epidemic caused in part by pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer; and they may be a conflict of interest if your goal as Attorney General is to punish corporate polluters of our environment, like Delaware City Refinery.
There is also a $600 donation from the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware, which might make sense, but then you have to wonder if she will be supportive of reforming our criminal justice and cash bail system for non violent offenders.
Jennings’ finance report also lists contributions that may prove to be a more direct conflict of interest: donations of $300 from Margaret Strine, the
wife mother of Delaware’s Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr., and $100 from Leo Strine, Sr, the Chief Justice’s father.
Now, candidates cannot control necessarily who donates to their campaign. Well, they can refuse and refund the donation if they were so inclined. For example, I would expect candidates I support to refuse donations from the NRA or Club for Growth. But what candidates can control is their actions and reactions in office. Campaign donations do not necessarily mean a candidate will change or modify their positions and policies according to the donor’s wishes once in office. But it means we need to watch.
Kathy Jennings is on TV up and down the state with ads about reforming the cash bail system. If she wins the primary next Thursday, and wins in November, and then doesn’t do it, or doesn’t hold those response for the opioid epidemic, pollution, or pursue criminal justice reform, then we will know why.