Campaign cash in four quick charts (with questions)

A ton of money is pouring into Colorado’s 2018 election cycle, and it’s likely to grow exponentially.

Already, gubernatorial candidates spent nearly $15 million through May 2. Four years ago, gov candidates spent less than $11 million in the entire election cycle.

In the contest for attorney general, candidates have spent $1.3 million with five months left to go, compared with a total of $1.1 million in 2014.

With that in mind, here are some charts that illustrate just a fraction of what’s happening in Colorado’s highly contested 2018 elections.

Governor’s race

Reiterating what is known: Democratic Congressman Jared Polis has a lot of money and he’s willing to spend it. Thus far, he’s put $6.3 million into his campaign, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

But who else is ready for a spending spree aimed at the June 26 primary? Here’s a look at the candidates’ cash on hand as of May 2 (Blue represents Dems, red Rs and green is unaffiliated):

Michael Johnston, the former Democratic state senator and darling of education reformers, is poised to spend. But he has yet to hit the airwaves in a serious way, instead letting super PAC Frontier Fairness do the heavy lifting. Will he aim for TV, boots on the ground or some combination?

GOP Treasurer Walker Stapleton is in a similar position, with money in the bank and relying thus far on super PAC Better Colorado Now for broadcast advertising. What’s his primary plan? Perhaps more will be revealed in the May 21 filings.

The one candidate definitely not in a position to spend much: former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez, who’s raised less than $7,000 so far this year.

Here’s a look at the total spending and fundraising by candidates, including the amounts candidates loaned themselves in the money raised.

The super PACS/IECs

Independent expenditure committees, the Colorado version of super PACs, are playing a key role in the governor’s race so far.  These committees (and 527s, another alternative) may raise unlimited donations and spend unlimited amounts, as long as they disclose the cash and don’t coordinate with candidates.

Also, based on the names, 2018 is a year of values and fairness.

Monday’s filings give a hint to some big issues and players on the horizon.

Here’s a look at the top 11 super PACs in terms of total fundraising for the cycle:

Frontier Fairness, the group supporting Johnston leads the way. Of that group’s $3.6 million, only 13 percent came from Colorado.

The oil-and-gas funded Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is second. That group has $2.3 million in the bank, potentially to fend off any ballot initiatives aimed at limiting its ability to explore oil and gas.

The Republican Senate Majority fund is outraising Democratic rival Coloradans for Fairness by more than twice. The Democratic House committee Our Colorado Values is narrowly outraising the GOP Values First Colorado.

And the Colorado Construction Industry Coalition may be gearing up for a transportation funding ballot initiative. Their $1.3 million is considerably more money than the group raised in past cycles.

Meanwhile, Raising Colorado, which spent heavily on the 2017 Denver Public School elections, is apparently gearing up for the midterms. The group is funded by New York-based Education Reform Now Advocacy, which donated $350,000 in late April.

Raising Colorado has more than $458,000 in cash. Could they get involved in the Democratic governor’s primary, where education reform is a hot issue?

Finally, the 11 committees on this list include Fair Districts Colorado, which is bankrolling a campaign to end partisan gerrymandering. Now that a compromise measure to have commissions draw congressional and legislative districts is headed to the ballot, it’s raising some money.

That brings us to…

The big donors

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry is throwing his money behind Fair Districts, putting in nearly $220,000 so far.

But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the really big money.

Of course Polis is at the top.

But next is oil company Anadarko, Protecting Colorado’s main benefactor. It’s joined in the list by Protecting Colorado supporters PDC Energy, Liberty Oilfield Services and Noble Energy.

Frontier Fairness has several top donors on the list: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman, hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel and his wife Susan Mandel. Oh, and add Kent Thiry to that list.


Photo Credit: Andy Thrasher for Flickr Creative Commons