CCDE Tribute Dinner

Written by Jeffrey Raffel on December 9, 2014

Common Cause Delaware (CCDE) held its 2014 Good Government Tribute Awards Dinner on Thursday, November 20 from 5:30 – 8:45 p.m. at the Christiana Hilton, Newark, DE. CCDE presented the Public Service Achievement Award to former Delaware Supreme Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey and the John Gardner Lifetime Achievement Award to Carl Schnee, Esquire. Delaware Governor Jack Markell selected this event to present Schnee with the Order of the First State, the highest civilian honor that the state presents. The CCDE also recognized James Browning, former Regional Director of Common Cause, for his work in restarting the Delaware state organization and for his inspiration, counsel, advocacy, research, and lobbying and fundraising efforts on behalf of the organization over the last five years.

The Master of Ceremonies was former Delaware State Senator and CCDE award recipient the Hon. Liane Sorenson. The Hon. Mike Castle introduced Carl Schnee and Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland introduced former Chief Justice Norm Veasey. (Castle served as U.S representative from Delaware and the state’s former governor and lieutenant governor.) CCDE board chair Jeff Raffel described how CCDE was adhering to John Gardner’s 1970 goals. Raffel also recognized James Browning for helping the state organization work toward those goals.

Recent Tribute Dinner honorees have included prominent Democrats--former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman and  State Senator Karen Peterson and Republicans--former Governor Russell Peterson, State Senator Liane Sorenson, Congressman Mike Castle, , and State Senator Steve Amick. Engaged citizens Ralph Begleiter, Marion Stewart, Dr. Jerome Lewis, and John Taylor, Jr. have also been honored.

The event attracted 90 attendees including the chair of the editorial board of the News Journal, legislators and former legislators, the president of the ACLU-DE, and many prominent lawyers.. A silent mini-auction included a stay at a condo in St. Lucia, golf for four at a local private country club, baskets of wine contributed by the CCDE board, and autographed copies of Justice Holland’s book about Lewes, Delaware coupled with dinners at local restaurants. Three prominent Delaware law firms were sponsors of the event along with eight individuals. 

Saturday morning November 22, 2014 the Wilmington News Journal, Delaware’s only major daily paper, printed the attached editorial under the headline, “Heeding the Challenge of Two Fighters.”  “It is significant that Common Cause honored these two men for their work on behalf of democracy at the state level. Fittingly their choices were bipartisan. Mr. Schnee is a lifelong Democrat while Justice Veasey is a Republican.” Schnee called for increasing the turnout rate in the state and Veasey for prohibiting members of the General Assembly and high level state officials from receiving any gifts while in office. The next day the paper published Veasey’s dinner speech in its entirety as the lead article in the opinion section of the paper.

Common Cause Delaware is one of the state’s most effective watchdog groups and has played a leading role in the passage of major reforms at the state and local levels. In the past three decades, CCDE has been instrumental in the implementation of key state and municipal reform measures, including Delaware’s first campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying regulation laws, authoring the Open Meetings Law, the Lobbyist Regulation Act, the Campaign Reporting Act and the Open Meetings Act, as well as legislation for online campaign finance reporting, contribution limits to candidates and political parties and the merit selection of judges. In 2012, CCDE successfully lobbied the General Assembly to pass a resolution in both chambers to become the second state in the nation to oppose the Citizens United decision.

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