SimmonsCooper invests in Democratic race for Delaware governor

Steve Korris Sep. 12, 2008, 7:57am

DOVER, Del. - In the last seven weeks of a Democratic primary contest for Delaware governor, SimmonsCooper law firm of East Alton contributed $34,600 to Democrat Jack Markell who wound up defeating John Carney by 1,737 votes.

SimmonsCooper lawyers, staff and spouses gave Markell $10,800 on July 22, $6,250 on July 25, $13,950 on Aug. 13 and $3,600 on Aug. 26.

Markell won the Democratic nomination Sept. 9, with 37,849 votes to Carney's 36,112.

SimmonsCooper's contributions and Markell's victory strengthen the firm's ties to Delaware, where SimmonsCooper began filing asbestos suits in 2005.

In 2005 and 2006, SimmonsCooper contributed at least $114,250 to Delaware Sen. Joe Biden's campaign for a seventh term.

Biden's former presidential bid received at least $46,450 from SimmonsCooper last year. SimmonsCooper contributed at least $34,800 to Biden's son, Beau Biden, in his successful campaign for Delaware attorney general in 2006.

The firm where Beau Biden worked -- Bifferato, Gentilotti, Biden & Balick -- has filed asbestos suits in New Castle County Court in Wilmington for SimmonsCooper, representing plaintiffs from all over the nation.

SimmonsCooper brought the cases to Wilmington after Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack announced he would transfer cases that didn't belong in his court.

Beau Biden dropped a client he had defended against asbestos claims in order to accommodate SimmonsCooper.

At the same time, Sen. Biden obstructed reform of asbestos litigation on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Three weeks after Delaware voters elected Beau Biden as attorney general, Jeff Cooper of SimmonsCooper contributed $1,200 to Markell who at that time ran for re-election as state treasurer.

Markell then raised his sights and declared himself candidate for governor.

This July 22, SimmonsCooper attorneys and spouses delivered nine contributions to Markell at Delaware's $1,200 limit.

Three days later, five attorneys and spouses from Simmonscooper contributed $1,200 each and a sixth donor added $250.

Nineteen days later, Markell received 11 $1,200 contributions from SimmonsCooper and another for $750.

Two weeks before the election, SimmonsCooper delivered three more $1,200 contributions.

While SimmonsCooper leader John Simmons continues litigating in Delaware through the Bifferato firm, he faces charges that one of his companies, YTB International, operated a nationwide pyramid scheme.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown in August sued YTB, an Internet-based travel business, saying it is "immensely profitable to a few individuals on top and a complete rip-off for most everyone else."

Simmons, principal owner of YTB International, resigned from its board Sept. 3.

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