The political fight over whether Colorado should keep tax revenue that the state now has to refund to taxpayers each year has attracted millions of dollars from so-called “dark money” groups, who hope to sway elections while keeping the source of their money secret.
The effort to pass Prop CC, which would let the state keep tax revenues above previously established spending limits and spend that money on transportation and education, has benefited from $1.9 million in “dark money,” coming from groups that don’t disclose their donors.
The campaign fighting against the proposition and hoping to keep the current refund system in place has gotten nearly all of its funding from such groups. Of the $1.66 million put into the anti-Prop CC campaign, $1.57 million, or 96%, has come from groups that don’t disclose the source of the money.
The campaign advocating for the passage of Prop CC got more funding from “dark money” groups, but because the campaign also took in significantly more money, the portion of their overall funding is comprised less from “dark money” groups.
Strategic Victory Fund, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors, gave $500,000 to the Prop CC campaign. According to the North Carolina Secretary of state, the group was formed just over three months ago, on July 25, 2019. According to LinkedIn, Scott Anderson, formerly associated with the National Education Association and the North Carolina Association of Educators, manages the group.
North Fund, a Washington D.C.-based organization that has little in the way of a paper trail and which does not disclose its donors, also gave $500,000 to the Prop CC campaign. A corporate filing shows Jim Gerstein is the organization’s officer. Gerstein also runs GBAO, a research and strategy consulting firm that works on behalf of Democratic candidates and progressive ballot measures.
Education Reform Now Advocacy, a nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors, gave $400,000. The organization is managed by New York hedge fund managers who advocate for charter schools and oppose teachers’ unions.
The National Education Association, the federal teachers’ union, put $250,000 into the Prop CC campaign.
Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that supports progressive causes, gave $100,000 to the Prop CC campaign.
Stand for Children, Inc., a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit group that advocates for school choice and doesn’t disclose its donors, put $31,000 toward the Prop CC campaign.
The pro-Prop CC campaign has also brought in far more money in general, with $4.4 million raised, and far more than the anti-Prop CC campaign from individuals, businesses, unions and traditional political action committees.
A smaller number of individual donors gave more to the pro-Prop CC campaign: only 40 individuals gave $1.79 million. Three individuals gave $100,000 or more:
Daniel Ritchie, the former chancellor of the University of Denver, gave the lion’s share of the individual contributions, with $1 million.
Pat Stryker, the billionaire heiress of the medical technology company, Stryker Corporation, gave $500,000.
Patrick Hamill, the founder and CEO of Oakwood Homes, gave $100,000.
An additional $776,000 came from Colorado-based political action groups, unions, business associations and businesses, including:
$400,000 from Gary Community Investment Company
$125,000 from Colorado Construction Industry Coalition
$111,000 from Great Education Colorado
$100,000 from Colorado Fund for Children and Public Education
$25,000 from Metropolitan State University of Denver Foundation
$15,000 from Associated General Contractors of Colorado
The vast majority of the “dark money” supporting the campaign opposing Prop CC, $1.41 million, came from Americans For Prosperity, a national political advocacy group founded by David Koch, of Koch Industries.
Americans For Prosperity is known for having helped spur the “Tea Party” movement after the election of President Barack Obama. The group has notably opposed fossil fuel industry regulations, Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increases and labor unions, and helped support Republican political candidates.
About three-quarters of the money Americans For Prosperity put into the opposition effort have gone toward mailers and ads on TV and radio advocating the defeat of Prop CC.
Local groups that don’t disclose their donors also chipped into the opposition campaign.
Defend Colorado, a nonprofit group that doesn’t disclose its donors and which characterizes itself as “defending Colorado’s economy from extreme anti-business policies,” put $100,000 into the opposition campaign.
The Independence Institute, a Denver-based libertarian think tank that doesn’t disclose its donors and says its mission is to “empower individuals and to educate citizens, legislators and opinion makers about public policies that enhance personal and economic freedom,” spent $51,000 on the opposition campaign.
Colorado Rising Action, a nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors and whose mission is “holding liberal groups and their special interest networks accountable and advancing conservative principles,” spent $12,000.
Colorado Taxpayers Union, a Boulder-based nonprofit that doesn’t disclose donors, spent $5,000 on the anti-Prop CC campaign.
Springs Taxpayers, a Colorado Springs-based nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors, spent $1,600 on the anti-Prop CC campaign.
There are an additional 118 individual contributors who account for $73,000 given to the opposition campaign, about 4% of the total anti-Prop CC warchest.