Colorado flag money spending financing

Call it the lull before the storm: Tuesday was the first of five bi-weekly deadlines between now and Election Day for committees to report their campaign finance donations and spending.

While there were just a couple of big donations since the June 30 primary, the spending by independent expenditure committees confirms the hot races for the statehouse, and one stands out among all others.

That would be Senate District 27 in Centennial. It’s the seat held by Republican Sen. Jack Tate, who decided not to run for re-election this year. Vying to succeed him are Democrat Chris Kolker and Republican Suzanne Staiert.

Just a handful of IECs have reported any significant electioneering spending since the primary, and four stand out: Unite for Colorado, Americans for Prosperity Action, Better Colorado Alliance and Leading Colorado Forward.

Democratic candidates have been the beneficiaries of the IECs, far outweighing what the Republican-leaning IECs have raised as of Sept. 2. 

The big money-raiser since the primary has been Leading Colorado Forward, an IEC that has to date taken in $1.5 million in 2020 from teachers and trade unions, America Votes and Education Reform Now Advocacy, the fundraising arm of Democrats for Education Reform.

Where it’s being spent: Staiert has been their top target to date, with $52,697 spent on negative advertising in the last week of August alone. The as focus on her role with the Hickenlooper ethics investigation and on a campaign finance complaint against her that will be heard by the Office of Administrative Courts on Sept. 30. 

The race for the Senate District 25 seat held by Republican State Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson is also drawing negative ads from Leading Colorado Forward, to the tune of $39,303 in just two days, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

Leading Colorado Forward has done some positive ads too, spending $31,247 during the last week of August for the benefit of Democratic State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada in Senate District 19.

Staiert isn’t fighting the battle on her own. Unite for Colorado, a dark money group that doesn’t disclose its donors, has spent $175,000 each on TV, mail and digital ads for Staiert and Lynn Gerber, who’s running against Zenzinger.

Unite for Colorado’s IEC reported $1 million in contributions from an address that belongs to Katie Kennedy, formerly of Strategic Compliance LLC. The Secretary of State’s TRACER campaign finance database reports Kennedy is the registered agent for more than five dozen active Republican-leaning committees.

Unite for Colorado is run by Dustin Zvonek, formerly a vice president of strategy and innovation for Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political advocacy group founded by brothers Charles and the late David Koch.

AFP Action, which previously announced it would back Staiert, is doing canvassing for Staiert. The fund has the same Colorado address as Americans for Prosperity, which is a dark money group that doesn’t divulge its donors. It has reported $908.80 in non-monetary contributions from its Arlington, Virginia, headquarters.

The Better Colorado Alliance IEC has spent $135,594 since the primary to back House Democratic incumbents and candidates in a variety of races, including the state’s hottest races.

That’s Reps. Bri Buentello of Pueblo, Lisa Cutter of Littleton, Tom Sullivan of Centennial and Brianna Titone of Arvada, as well as candidate David Ortiz of Littleton. The IEC has bought electioneering ads on Facebook and mail pieces, ranging from $15,000 for Sullivan to more than $31,000 for Titone.

Better Colorado Alliance, which has so far raised $1.1 million in 2020, has some of the same donors as Leading Colorado Forward: teachers and trade unions, Education Reform Now Advocacy, as well as several oil and gas companies and pharmaceutical/healthcare companies.

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