Big, big money is at play in Colorado’s elections. And it’s only June.

Two things stand out in recent money-in-politics filings, which campaigns were required to report this week.

First: Sure, big money is being spent by Democratic Congressman Jared Polis, but also by other statewide candidates.

Second: The oil-and-gas industry is amassing a war chest to pass one ballot measure and fight another.

Here’s a breakdown.

The candidates:

Polis has now spent $10.5 million of his own money on his quest to be Colorado’s next governor

His donations to his own campaign already surpass the combined fundraising of term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and his GOP opponent in 2014 (they spent $8.3 million). He’s close to the $10.9 million spent by all gubernatorial candidates in the 2014 cycle.

And it’s likely that before the primary is over, he’ll surpass the $11.4 million spent by outside groups in the 2014 general election.

Of course, when you combine Polis’ spending with that of Republican Victor Mitchell, who has loaned his campaign $3.9 million (that he’ll never get back), the two have already surpassed such full-cycle landmarks before the primary.

Other candidates for governor and statewide offices are also spending their own cash, too.

Here’s a look at that money:

Some points:

The above chart combines loans and actual candidate spending.

It doesn’t include the $100,000 that GOP Treasurer Walker Stapleton put in his campaign on June 1.

Nor does it include the nearly $223,000 in loans to prior campaigns for treasurer that Stapleton forgave last year— money spent long ago.

Republican Victor Mitchell, running for governor, is now the second biggest self-funder in Colorado elections since 2002. He’s loaned his campaign $3.9 million, topping the late Joe Coors’ $3.5 million on a 2012 House race. (OK, you could quibble that he’s in third if we count Polis in the top two spots.)

Mitchell has raised only about $58,000 from others.

Polis has raised about $218,000 from other people. And he’s taking donations that voluntarily max out at $100 per person.

The only two candidates for governor who aren’t spending their own cash? Democrats Mike Johnston and Cary Kennedy. And both have outraised the other six gubernatorial candidates when it comes to money from other people.

Democratic state Rep. Dave Young is the only candidate for treasurer who isn’t sinking his own cash into the contest. His primary opponent, Bernie Douthit, has spent nearly $36,000, accounting for 57 percent of his spending.

On the Republican side of the treasurer contest, Rep. Polly Lawrence has spent nearly $176,000 (51 percent of her spending); businessman Brian Watson, $180,000 (45 percent): and Rep. Justin Everett, $15,000 (44 percent).

The committees:

Ben Markus at Colorado Public Radio did a great piece last week on the cash the oil and gas industry is amassing.

Monday’s filing further illuminates the prowess of Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, aka Protect Colorado.

The group has raised more than $10 million (they’re still second to Polis, though). They recently paid Oregon consultant PAC/WEST $2 million to gather petition signatures. The group is backing a ballot initiative that would require governments to reimburse property owners if regulations reduce the property’s value.

Protect Colorado also will be fighting an initiative to require oil and gas operations to locate at least 2,500 feet from people’s homes, schools or businesses. Colorado Rising to Protect Health and Safety, which is promoting that measure, has raised only about $143,000.

Donors to Protect Colorado include Anadarko Petroleum ($2.5 million), Extraction Oil and Gas ($2.1 million), Noble Energy ($2 million) and PDC Energy ($1.9 million).

Here’s a look at the top 10 non-candidate committees in terms of fundraising:

Some observations:

Coloradans for Coloradans is raising money to support a sales tax increase to pay for transportation.

One of that group’s largest contributors thus far is the Colorado Construction Industry committee.

Much of Raising Colorado’s activity was during school board races last fall. But the group is also sending mailers supporting legislative candidates. It is affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform.

Our Colorado Values is the super PAC supporting Democratic House candidates, while the Senate Majority Fund supports Republican Senate candidates. Both have received money from a variety of business interests.


Photo by Images Money for Creative Commons in Flickr. 


  1. I want a Democratic governor who is independent and a good critical thinker. I do not think quality public education is the #1 priority for the State. Still undecided, I’ve narrowed my list to Donna Lynne & Jared Polis.

  2. Ballot Initiative #97 is so critical to Colorado’s participation in any sort of climate future.It’s important we put this tool in the hand of our next Democratic governor so the environment is at last given the existential political importance it deserves but never has gotten. RESIST!

Comments are closed.