The first campaign finance filing from those who back the national popular vote law show the measure has strong financial support. It's just not coming from Coloradans.
The law would pledge the state's nine presidential electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote rather than to the winner of the state's popular vote for president.
Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly, who hold the majority in the House and Senate, sent the national popular vote bill to Gov. Jared Polis last February. He signed it into law March 15.
The bill included in it a petition clause that would allow voters to challenge the law. Before the ink was even dry, Monument Mayor Don Wilson and Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese mounted a challenge to the law. They gathered 183,673 valid signatures to put it on the 2020 ballot, well above the required 124,632, on Aug. 29.
The law was cited as one of the first reasons organizations began recall efforts against Polis, Senate President Leroy Garcia, and state Sens. Pete Lee of Colorado Springs and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.
Since then, two committees backing national popular vote have been formed. The largest, "Yes on National Popular Vote," has raised $744,646, as reported by the committee on Oct. 15 on the state's TRACER campaign finance system. Of those contributions, just $2,125 has been identified as coming from Coloradans. Out of those 46 donations, none were greater than $100.
Contributions from Californians dominate the campaign's purse. The largest — a contribution of $500,000 — came from wealthy Democratic donor Stephen Silberstein, who made his fortune on automated systems for libraries. Silberstein of Belvedere, Calif., sits on the board of National Popular Vote. He also has been generous with other Democratic causes and candidates, according to Federal Election Commission filings, with a total $4.7 million given to congressional and presidential candidates and state parties in the last three election cycles. The Colorado Democratic Party was the recipient of a $13,050 donation from Silberstein in the 2018 election cycle. He gave $10,000 to Bold Colorado, a political action committee that backed Polis in the 2018 election, and $15,000 to the committee that unsuccessfully opposed the 2013 recalls of two Democratic state senators.
Craig Barratt of Santa Clara, Calif., an executive with Intel, contributed $100,000. He also is a frequent donor to Democratic causes and candidates, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Another $55,000 came from John Koza of Los Altos, Calif., who chairs the NPV board. In addition to the more than $1 million he has given to federal candidates in the past three election cycles, Koza has also kept an eye on Colorado politics, with donations in 2018 to the campaign committees of Polis, Pettersen and Lee along with Secretary of State Jena Griswold, and state Sens. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Faith Winter of Westminster. Koza's money comes from being the co-inventor of the lottery scratch ticket.
Bart Burstein, a telecom executive from Palo Alto, Calif., gave $35,000 to the NPV committee. He's also generous with federal Democratic candidates and committees, including a $1,000 donation to U.S. Rep. Jason Crow last year.
The wealthiest donor among those who gave to the NPV committee is George Marcus, a billionaire real estate developer from Palo Alto who gave $10,000 to the NPV committee. Marcus has contributed $17.4 million to Democratic causes and candidates in the last three election cycles. That includes more than $7 million to the federal House Majority PAC and just shy of $1 million to several committees working to take control of the U.S. Senate.
California donations total $730,485 out of the total $744,646 collected so far by the Yes on NPV committee.
That California total also includes $27,725 in non-monetary contributions -- services provided to the committee -- from the National Popular Vote organization, which is based in Los Altos, CA.
However, those who oppose the national popular vote have also given generously to "Protect Colorado's Vote," which has so far collected $762,379 since the committee was formed last March.
Almost all of its donors are Coloradans, and include some big names in Republican political circles. Former University of Colorado President Bruce Benson gave $15,000. Values First Colorado, the political committee dedicated to electing Republicans to the state House, gave $5,500 as an in-kind contribution for signature gathering. JD Edwards founder Ed McVaney, who often gives big checks to conservatives running for school boards, kicked in $20,000. Republican CU Regent Heidi Ganahl gave $10,000, as did beer magnate Peter Coors. The state GOP independent expenditure committee put in $20,000.
The Project West PAC, which is a federal PAC tied to Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, gave $50,000. Clarity Media owner Phil Anschutz gave the PAC $5,000 in March.
The biggest contributions to date have come through dark money groups that don't always disclose their donors. That includes the Better Jobs Coalition, which has raised more than $3.2 million since 2016, mostly working for or against ballot measures. The group's registered agent is Rick Enstrom, a former candidate for the state House.
The biggest donors to Better Jobs are groups that don't divulge their funding sources, such as Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution. That group has been one of the the biggest donors to the Better Jobs committee, with $565,000 in the last three years. The group also has contributed than $1.7 million to various groups in the past decade, including the committees who persuaded voters to recall the two state senators in 2013.
For the anti-NPV committee, Better Jobs has so far put in $105,000, making it the largest donor to the cause so far.