Documents released late Monday afternoon reveal that the political action committee supporting Polly Sierer is funded by Delaware Jobs Now, the group that has been a leader in supporting the proposed data center and power plant project slated for the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus.
The group is the PAC’s sole donor, providing $45,000, which was used in part to create the website ILikePollysPlan.com and distribute fliers in Newark, both by mail and in person.
The pamphlets include a photo of Sierer with former mayor Vance A. Funk III and promote “Polly’s plan,” which the fliers claim will bring thousands of jobs to Newark and “diversify the City’s tax base – like the STAR Campus.”
Sierer has disavowed the group’s actions.
The special mayoral election is Tuesday.
A filing with the state election department shows that the PAC’s chairman is Vince D’Anna, a real estate agent from the Evergreen neighborhood of Newark. D’Anna, who also donated $100 to Sierer’s official campaign, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
According to the documents, Delaware Jobs Now is in care of Delawareans for Environmental and Economic Development, which is described on its website as “a unique coalition of Delaware labor and business leaders” that “have in common [a] belief that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.”
The group lists as its contact information a phone number for Richard Heffron, interim president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. Among its founding board members is Andrew Lubin, UD’s real estate director, who is responsible for the development of the STAR Campus.
Delaware Jobs Now and its website, delawarejobsnow.org, voice support for the proposed data center and power plant, and the group has distributed leaflets door-to-door advocating for the project.
In both an interview Monday and a statement issued over the weekend, Sierer condemned the PAC.
“I value transparency and have high ethical standards, which makes the actions of whomever is behind this very disappointing to me. Let me be clear: This is from an outside group and was done without my knowledge, approval, or involvement,” Sierer said.
“If I can send a message to whomever is orchestrating this, it is to stop. Information has been lifted from my campaign materials and is being used out of context, which is disrespectful to me and, more importantly, to the residents of Newark who are trying to educate themselves before they head to the polls Tuesday,” she continued.
Sierer said it appears that the PAC took images from her campaign material without her permission.
“This will be investigated after the election,” she said.
Sierer would not comment on whether the PAC’s literature accurately describes her views.
“I’m not going to get into specifics,” she said.
The source of the PAC’s funding was unknown until Monday, when former city councilman Ezra Temko filed a complaint against the PAC, arguing in his letter to Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove that the group is violating state law by not disclosing its donors.
“When there’s big money trying to influence a local election, the voters deserve to know where that money is coming from,” said Temko, who endorsed Rebecca Powers for mayor.
He filed the complaint under the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act, passed in 2012, which requires that third parties that spend $500 or more on campaign advertisements disclose their donors within 24 hours.
Manlove said her office spoke to someone affiliated with the PAC and that person agreed to submit the required paperwork.
According to the state elections department, the treasurer of the PAC is listed as Michael Mullen, of Cambridge Drive. In 2008, Mullen ran for city council, losing to Temko.
The phone number listed on the PAC registration matches the cell phone number Mullen used in 2008, but was not in service Monday afternoon.
Sierer said Monday that she does not know Mullen and has not spoken to him.
Mullen is listed as a co-host of a fundraiser for Sierer, according to an invitation emailed to Sierer supporters by Bob Ashby. The fundraiser was held Friday at The Deer Park Tavern.
Sierer said the fundraiser was organized by a group of business owners and, although she attended, she did not talk to Mullen.
Funk is also listed as a host of the fundraiser, but said Monday that his name was included without his knowledge.
Funk, who endorsed Sierer, said that he agreed to pose for photos for Sierer’s campaign literature but was not aware of the PAC.
He declined to comment further.
“I’d have to know more about it,” Funk said.
Powers, one of seven people running in the election, said she was disappointed to see the PAC’s involvement in the election.
“Our elections have to be transparent,” Powers said. “This is setting a bad precedent.”
Amy Roe, another mayoral candidate, said she is running her campaign without PAC money.
“I’m not using this kind of tactic,” Roe said.
“I want to keep this classy,” she said, declining to comment further.
Candidate Don DelCollo decried the influence of outside money in the mayoral race.
“It’s sad what’s going on,” DelCollo said.