Colorado lags others states on share of federal dollars

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The last campaign finance reports due before Tuesday’s primary are rolling in, and so are the big bucks. More than $3.1 million has been spent on advertising and electioneering communications since May 1. 

As of noon Monday, about a dozen committees had reported their spending through June 24. 

Here's who's spending and who they're spending for:

Unite Colorado: Backs candidates from both parties. Its largest expenditures have been contributions to other committees, including Coloradans for Constitutional Values and Better Leaders, Better Colorado, for a total of $750,000 since May 1.

Its largest funder is Unite America, which according to Open Secrets gets its money from Kathryn Murdoch, daughter-in-law of Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox Broadcasting. However, Kathryn Murdoch does not share her father-in-law’s political positions.

Assuring Quality Healthcare Access for Colorado is an independent expenditure committee controlled by medical liability insurer COPIC. In the 2020 election cycle, the committee has spent $203,100.

Who they’re supporting: Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, who’s running in the Republican primary in Senate District 8; Tonya Van Beber, who’s running in the Republican primary for House District 48 (Weld County); Dan Woog, who’s running for the Republican primary in House District 63 (Weld County); Sen. Chris Hansen, who’s running in the Democratic primary in Senate District 31 (Denver); John Ronquillo, who’s a candidate in the Democratic primary in House District 40 (Aurora); and Rep. Colin Larson, who’s vying for the Republican nomination in House District 22 in south Jefferson County, including Columbine and Ken Caryl.

Coloradans for Constitutional Values: This independent expenditure committee is solely funded by Unite America, with $527,500 in contributions in the past six weeks.

Who they’re supporting with the $486,332 they’ve spent: the same Republican candidates that Assuring Quality Healthcare backs: Woog, Van Beber, Larson and Rankin. Cleave Simpson, who’s running for Senate District 35, which encompasses southeastern Colorado, also is backed by this committee.

Coloradans for Constitutional Values spends both in favor of the Republicans they support and runs opposition pieces on their opponents.

Better Leaders, Better Colorado backs Democratic candidates with the $227,500 it has raised as of June 24, all from Unite Colorado.

Who they support: this committee is getting a head start on November, backing candidates who don’t have primary opponents, including Judy Amabile in House District 13 (Boulder), Jennifer Bacon in House District 7 (Denver), Rep. James Coleman in Senate District 33 (Denver), and Lindsey Daughtery in House District 29 (Arvada). They’re also putting money into the primaries in favor of Ronquillo and Hansen.

Better Colorado Alliance: This is the independent expenditure committee backing Democratic candidates for the Colorado House. It has yet to spend money on candidates in the 2020 election cycle.

Better Colorado Alliance has so far raised $1.1 million and spent $474,000 in this election cycle, including $236,700 to IRN, a nebulously-named research firm that has no website. But it routinely takes in big bucks every election cycle. In the 2020 cycle, that’s $540,742 from a variety of committees that support Democrats. IRN has been paid more than $4 million by Democratic candidates and the committees that back them over the past decade.

While the owners are unknown, Ben Ergen of Constellation Political linked the post office box initiatives run by former CSU President Al Yates and former Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll.

Big donors to Better Colorado include Kimberly Jordan, the owner of New Belgium Brewery; software entrepreneur and philanthropist Tim Gill, Conservation Colorado, the Colorado Education Association and United Healthcare.

The same committee for the Senate Democrats is Leading Colorado Forward, which has raised $1.2 million in the 2020 election cycle, with a lot of the same donors who contributed to Better Colorado Alliance. The committee has spent $386,456, with $194,200 going to IRN.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners: So far, RMGO has spent $28,754 backing Justin Everett in House District 22 against Larson, Rupert Parchment in Senate District 23 (Weld and Larimer counties); Grady Nouis in House District 48, who's running against Van Beber; Patricia Miller in House District 63, who's running against Woog; and Sen. Vicki Marble in House District 49. RMGO reports $32,375 in contributions, with $17,375 left over from 2018 and $15,000 in contributions from its political action committee.

Friends for the Future has raised $63,797 and spent $52,410. Its purpose is to educate voters on free market issues and public policy. That money has been spent on support for Republicans Larson, Van Beber, Woog, and Michael Spencer Lynch in House District 49 (Weld County), who’s running against Marble.

Its biggest donors are Walmart ($10,000), auto dealers ($11,500), wine and spirits sellers ($5,000) and PHRMA, the pharmacy association ($3,000).

Citizens for Experience, which states that it backs Republican candidates, has raised $18,250, mostly from homebuilders.

Its largest expenditure is for digital advertising at $10,000 on June 5, but the expenditure does not identify who the advertising supports, a potential campaign finance violation. However, the vendor, WPA Intelligence, lists its primary work as political intelligence.

The committee’s agent is longtime political consultant Michael Hesse.

Raising Colorado, the political spending arm of Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now Advocacy, has taken sides on the Democratic primary. The independent expenditure committee has spent $91,000 to support Ronquillo and Hansen. The committee lists only $25,000 in contributions from Education Reform Now Advocacy, the New York-based organization led by hedge-fund managers.

American Energy Action gets its money from a Washington, D.C., political action committee that backs clean energy independence. Its donors are unknown, making it a dark money group.

The committee has raised $31,000 and spent $30,148 on support for Hansen and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada, who does not have a primary opponent.

Local Choice Colorado: Supports Initiative 257, which would allow voters in Colorado’s local gambling communities to expand betting amounts and the types of games allowed at casinos.

Current gaming limits bets to no more than $100. Initiative 257, which is in the petition signature-gathering phase, would put the issue of limits to local voters.

Currently, slots, blackjack, poker, craps and roulette are allowed at the casinos. The measure would allow for other games, subject to local approval, but doesn’t identify the types of games.

Ballot measure supporters have spent more than $1 million, with $750,000 spent on petition gathering, most of it in the past month.

Of the $1.7 million raised by Local Choice, named donors include Penn National Gaming and Monarch Casinos. But the biggest donation of $750,000 is dark money from Local Choice Colorado, meaning no known donor — and is listed at an address for EIS Solutions, which is running the campaign.

To date, no committee appears to have been formed to oppose the measure.

Note: This story has been updated to correct the amount of money spent since May 1.

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