Spreading Wealth Around

Additional reporting from Colorado Confidential reporter Erin Rosa

Wealthy political operatives are weaving a complex web when it comes to Colorado’s powerful GOP 527, the Trailhead Group, LLC (formerly Headwaters), which Colorado Confidential began investigating last week.

Trailhead’s complicated relationships with two other GOP 527s extends to the donors giving to 527s, individual candidates, and state-level fundraising committees.Following the thread of contributions and contributors can be dizzying. Gov. Bill Owens, former Republican Party chairman Bruce Benson, and beer baron Pete Coors helped found Trailhead. Donors who helped Coors in his failed U.S. Senate bid and Owens in his past campaigns also contribute to Trailhead. Coors gives large sums to the Republican Governors Association, a group that Owens once chaired, and which is now helping to fund Trailhead.

But following this thread is important. Donors usually want something in exchange for their generosity, whether it’s a political or policy payback. Insurance companies want action on legislation that affects them; developers like having friends in the government when they go bidding for government-funded contracts; sometimes a donor gets a craving for a particular appointment.

This post marks the first in a series in which we will profile generous contributors to Trailhead, the Senate Majority Fund, and the Colorado Leadership Fund. We start with the Republican Governors Association, a 527 in its own right, which has a cool half-a-million-dollar stake in Trailhead.

Republican Governors Association (RGA) (http://www.rga.org/). $500,000 to Trailhead. Type: individual (527).

The Republican Governors Association’s stated purpose is to help elect Republicans to governorships across the nation-that translates, of course, into helping Bob Beauprez win his race this year. RGA is the nation’s largest state-oriented 527 in the nation, having collected $25.8 million so far this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Corporate donors to the group are legion. The group’s most recent filings with the IRS include reports of large contributions from such companies as Altria Inc. (the tobacco giant), Bristol-Meyers Squibb (the pharmaceutical giant), Corrections Corporation of America (the prison giant) and -surprise: Pete Coors.

Coors contributed $50,000 to RGA on May 31, 2006. He and other family members have contributed a grand total of $271,300 to Trailhead, the Colorado Leadership Fund, and the Senate Majority Fund.

Joel Farkas, of Gateway American Properties, another major donor to the three 527s ($150,000, $100,000 of which went to Trailhead, $50,000 to the Senate Majority Fund), also gave to RGA. He contributed $50,000 on May 16, 2006 (two $25,000 contributions.)

Stay tuned for more profiles of the many and wealthy donors to Trailhead, the Senate Majority Fund, and the Colorado Leadership Fund.

Tuesday. Republican State Leadership Committee.

Wednesday. Adolph Coors Company.

Thursday. Gateway America Properties.

Friday. Benson Mineral Group.

Saturday. Copic Insurance.

Sunday. Haselden Construction LLC.

Next up will be the Republican State Leadership Committee, another national 527.

(note: “Type” of contribution is significant, since 527s are restricted to using individual contributions to pay for electioneering advertisements during the 60-day period leading up to a general election. For 2006, the clock started ticking on September 8. That said, 527 organizations are not required to report which of its donors fall into the individual and corporate categories. Colorado Confidential coded contributors using public information.)

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