Cash dropped so far in Colorado’s governor race blows away 2010 and 2014 spending records – combined

With one week to go until the primary, spending in Colorado’s 2018 governor’s race has shattered records – even for spending in general elections in the state.

Monday’s final filings before the June 26 primary made clear that this election cycle is dominated by deep pockets, both of the candidates themselves and of their supporters.

The eight contenders and the super PACs supporting them reached $35.5 million worth of spending in the governor’s contest through June 13. The $25 million spent personally by candidates is more than the total spent by candidates in both the 2010 and 2014 governor’s races combined.

Perhaps the most eye-popping number is the $1 million more that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave to Frontier Fairness, bringing his total to $2 million to the super PAC supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston.

But more on the super PACs later.

First, here’s a look at the loans and direct contributions from the eight candidates for governor:

It’s worth noting that all four GOP candidates are spending significant personal funds on their campaigns. But there’s a huge monetary gap between businessman Victor Mitchell’s nearly $5 million in loans (this chart doesn’t include another $100,000 he dropped in after the filing deadline) and former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez’s $29,000.

Lost in the middle are Treasurer Walker Stapleton and businessman Doug Robinson. In any other year, the $837,000 Stapleton has given to his campaign might seem ginormous. It’s worth noting that more than $550,000 of that has come in the past month.

Robinson loaned his campaign $300,000 early on. But unlike others, he hasn’t kept pouring cash into his efforts and his fundraising has slowed.

On the Democratic side, Polis’s $11 million-plus in self-funding dominates the overall field. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne also put $161,000 into her coffers earlier in the campaign.

That leaves former Treasurer Cary Kennedy and former state Sen. Johnston as the only two of the eight gubernatorial candidates not spending their own cash.

We’ve already mentioned Frontier Fairness, by far and away the super PAC spending the most in this gubernatorial contest. It’s supporting Johnston.

A reader asked that we combine the super PAC with candidate cash to see who’s spending the most.

So, here you go:

This puts things in a different context, and it’s an important one as Frontier Fairness continues airing TV ads and filling your mailbox with mailers supporting Johnston. Combine Frontier Fairness with Johnston’s fundraising, and they’re in second place to Polis.

Bloomberg’s $2 million and another $1 million from LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman account for half of the Frontier Fairness haul.

And even Polis is getting PAC help from both the Sierra Club super PAC  and Bold Colorado, another independent spending committee. Let’s note here that none of these super PACs are supposed to coordinate with candidates they’re supporting.

The $600,000 in Sierra Club cash come from the national nonprofit, which doesn’t have to disclose their donors. So there’s no way to know if a donor gave to the national group and designated it for the Polis campaign.

Bold Colorado is primarily funded by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, another nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its money. Bold Colorado is airing TV ads supporting Polis and opposing Kennedy, whom Polis’s campaign sees as its chief competitor.

In recent weeks, Polis has stepped up his criticisms of his opponents for taking PAC money. Asked today about how Bold Colorado’s spending on Polis’s behalf jibes with the congressman’s frequent criticisms of his opponents for taking PAC money, his campaign spokeswoman Mara Sheldon went on the defensive: “For more than a decade, Jared has called for campaign finance reform. But his friends aren’t going to sit idly by while billionaires and out-of-state money power Jared’s opponents’ campaigns. In this current climate, there isn’t any reason for one candidate to campaign with one arm tied behind their back.”

Teachers for Kennedy, the PAC backing Kennedy, is funded by teachers’ unions and PACs supporting Democratic women candidates.

Stapleton originally was supported by Better Colorado Now, a PAC he raised money for before declaring his candidacy. Big name donors included a range of businessmen from Colorado and elsewhere.

Now, Coloradans for Fiscal Responsibility has stepped in with TV ads supporting Stapleton and opposing Mitchell. That group’s $300,000 came from the nonprofit Colorado Taxpayers’ Advocate Fund. Again, that’s money that can’t be disclosed.

Three candidates don’t have super PAC backing: Mitchell, Lynne and Lopez.

Let’s also note this: There’s still time for both candidates and super PACs to pour more money into advertising, mailers, robocalls, etc. in the next week.

Candidates must report donations of $1,000 or more (including from themselves) within 24 hours. But PACs aren’t required to report such large contributions.

PACs do have to report independent spending within 48 hours, however.

There’s a post-primary filing date on July 2, when more will be revealed.

Meanwhile, follow @COpoliticsCO on Twitter, where I’ll be tweeting frequently about these reports.

And if you get any of those mailers, robocalls, etc.? Let me know by emailing screenshots to You can find a collection of campaign messages and analysis of them at Follow the Message.

Photo by Tracy Olson via Flickr


  1. Why would the former Mayor of NYC put $2 million into a primary for Governor in Colorado. He must want something in return. Ditto the other million dollar donors to Frontier Fairness, none of whom live in Colorado. This race should not be for sale to the highest bidder.

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