Fundraising in Colorado’s hottest congressional races tops $8 million

Aspen millionaire Tatnall Hillman has donated more to conservative campaigns this year than in any previous year, doling out at least $800,000 to congressional campaigns, presidential candidates, and conservative groups.

What? You say you have never heard of Tatnall Hillman? Join the club.

Hillman is Colorado’s most generous Republican when it comes to campaign contributions. But Hillman, whose wealth came from his father’s coal, oil and gas fortunes, has made it his business to stay out of the spotlight, and let his money do the talking. 

He started off small, with just $11,500 in contributions in 2000. But in the last three election cycles, his donations have come in six figures. In 2012, Hillman gave $263,600 to conservative candidates nationwide; in 2014 he donated $711,608, and this year, just through Aug. 1, and not including candidates for Congress, he’s donated $827,928.

He’s also been generous with the limited-government group Club for Growth, with more than $40,000 in contributions two years ago and at least $48,000 so far this year.

This year, Hillman’s money has gone to presidential nominee Donald Trump, and to candidates Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson. He gave $5,400 to failed U.S. Sen. candidate Robert Blaha, and more than $28,000 to the John Bolton PAC, run by the former United Nations ambassador. That PAC recently gave $5,000 to Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, who is in a tight re-election battle against Democratic former state Sen. Gail Schwartz of Crested Butte.

Tipton’s race against Schwartz in the Third Congressional District, which covers the Western Slope and parts east to Pueblo, is one of two of the most closely-watched Congressional races in the state. The other is the Sixth Congressional District race (Aurora and suburbs south of Denver) between incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic state Sen. Morgan Carroll, both of Aurora. Carroll picked up the endorsement of President Barack Obama Monday morning.

Hillman is just one of the many putting money into these races. Fundraising in both has now surpassed one million dollars per candidate in CD3 and $2 million per candidate in CD6.

Here’s a closer look at each race and who (besides Hillman) is giving:

Schwartz has outraised Tipton in the past two quarters. In the most recent quarter ending Sept. 30, she brought in a little more than $709,000 to Tipton’s roughly $384,000. She trails Tipton in overall contributions, with $1.3 million; Tipton’s total is now $1.5 million.

In addition to the Bolton PAC, the Koch PAC, a committee tied to the billionaire Koch brothers, gave Tipton $5,000.

The breakdown for Tipton’s contributions: about 55 percent from individuals; and 44 percent from political action committees and local, state and national GOP groups.

Those donations include quite a few from political action committees tied to banking and other financial services, such as Morgan Stanley ($7,500), JP Morgan Chase ($6,000), American Bankers Association ($6,000) and Citigroup ($10,000). The National Republican Congressional Committee in September gave him $13,000.

PACs tied to energy and mineral interests have been generous with Tipton. That includes Exxon Mobil ($5,000), Chevron ($2,500), ConocoPhillips ($5,000), Freeport-McMoran Copper ($7,500), PDC Energy ($5,000) and Arch Coal ($5,000).

At the end of September, Tipton shelled out $211,482 to Designated Market Media of Arlington, VA for TV media buys. So those commercials are coming. And he also paid$29,951 for polling in August to The Tarrance Group, also of Arlington.

Tipton had $859,103 on hand headed into the final six weeks of the campaign season.

Schwartz has received more than three dozen donations of $5,000 each from political action committees. That includes Fearless PAC, which is tied to Polis; American Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood, End Citizens United, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and NARAL Pro-Choice. The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund donated more than $58,000, her largest donation to date.

She’s also received contributions in the past quarter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California ($2,000); Emily’s List ($5,000) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($2,500).

Schwartz’s contribution breakdown: a little more than 22 percent from PACs and other committees, and almost 77 percent from individuals. She had $211,975 on hand on Sept. 30.

Her biggest expenses have also been for advertising: $428,031 to Blue West Media of Denver between Aug. 31 and Sept. 29.

In the Sixth Congressional District contest, Carroll won the fundraising battle in the most recent quarter, but trails Coffman by $800,000 in total contributions.

She raised $796,815 in the last quarter to Coffman’s $697,770. Carroll’s total is now $2.17 million to Coffman’s $2.97 million. Coffman had $1.075 million on hand as of Sept. 30; Carroll’s campaign account had $315,579 remaining.

Carroll’s contribution breakdown: 80 percent from individuals; roughly 20 percent from political action committees.

Carroll’s biggest donations have come through ActBlue, a political action committee that has raised more than $1.3 billion for Democrats in the past dozen years. Carroll has so far received $282,668 from the PAC.

Among her individual donors: Vicki Cowart of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains ($3,850) and Karen Middleton of NARAL-Colorado ($650). Carroll also received more than 200 contributions from attorneys, most from Colorado, in the last quarter.

Coffman’s contribution breakdown: 60 percent from individuals and the rest from political action committees.

Among his donors: former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina ($2,500); Marilyn Ware, former ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush ($5,500); a PAC tied to Wal-Mart ($6,500); Altria, the corporation formerly known as tobacco giant Philip Morris ($7,000); Miller-Coors ($6,000, including $4,000 this quarter); Ball Corporation of Broomfield ($10,000) and Halliburton, an oilfield services company that made billions of dollars on the Iraq war ($5,000). Coffman also has received large contributions from PACs tied to other Republican congressional representatives, such as Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio ($7,000) and Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois ($7,500).

As for Hillman, the Aspen millionaire, he gave Coffman $2,700 in this quarter and has now reached the federal maximum contribution limit of $5,400 total for the year.  He gave Coffman $3,600 in 2014.

The next reporting period ended on Oct. 19 with a filing deadline of Oct. 27. Data from that filing will likely not be available until close to Election Day, Nov. 8.


Photo credit: Falling Cash, Creative Commons license, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.