In Colorado, Democrats see a strong money haul as GOP relies on super PACs

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Call Wednesday’s filing deadline the calm-before-the-general-election storm — the first time candidates and campaigns had to show the public their books since the June 26 primary election night.

A few things stand out in these most recent reports that cover June 28 through July 27:

The four Democratic Senate candidates endorsed by former President Barack Obama, two of them challengers and two in open seats, continue to raise more money than their Republican opponents. That’s significant since Republicans hold the state Senate by only one seat and desperately want to keep it while Democrats, who control the House by a comfortable margin, are gunning hard for a true blue state legislature.

Democratic Congressman Jared Polis continues to pour his own personal cash into his campaign for governor. So far in the past month he’s pumped in $1.6 million for a total personal investment of $12.9 million through his successful primary. But it is still early. Expect to see him resurface on your TV screen soon.

The Republican Governors Association, a national group that seeks to get more GOP governors elected in the states, is already in the game and hoping to put Republican State Treasurer Walker Stapleton in the governor’s mansion. So far the group has already showered him with nearly $1 million in TV and digital ads. This shows national Republicans, at least for now, see a race they believe they can win in an important swing state.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Governors Association and the Obama-related National Democratic Redistricting Committee are gearing up to support Polis with a super PAC called Good Jobs Colorado.

But there’s plenty more here. So … to the charts, along with some context.

The governor’s contest

There’s plenty of Twitter chatter about whether the Stapleton campaign’s $252,000 July haul is something that should concern him. His receipts include $80,000 from the Colorado Republican Party and $14,000 from the campaign account of his running-mate Rep. Laing Sias.

Here’s some context: Stapleton’s fundraising take compares with about $260,000 raised by GOP candidate Bob Beauprez in the same month after the primary in 2014, which included $50,000 from the state Republicans.

That same year, incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper consistently outraised Beauprez. He eventually won — by about 57,000 votes.

Both the RGA and DGA spent about $6 million in the 2014 contest.

This year, the RGA already reports spending more than $874,000 on TV ads and $45,000 on digital ads for Stapleton and against Polis in Colorado. A super PAC operated by the state GOP will start airing ads on Stapleton’s behalf on Aug. 20.

Off to a relatively slow start, however, is Good Jobs Colorado, which is poised to oppose Stapleton and support Polis. That group received $200,000 from the aforementioned National Democratic Redistricting Committee and $125,000 from the DGA.

But the governor’s contest fundraising is indicative of the money raised in all four state executive contests, where Democrats are leading. Here’s a look:

The Senate contests

Here’s a peek at fundraising and money in the bank for Democratic and Republican candidates in those four key Senate contests. (There are Libertarians and unaffiliated candidates in some races.)

Two of the seats are held by Republicans, two are held by term-limited Democrats. Republicans need to hold two of these seats to keep their advantage, while Democrats would need to win three of the four to take the majority.

But there’s more at work here than the candidate cash….

The legislative committees

When it comes to the super PACs defending or trying to add legislative seats it’s all about values and fairness — at least in the messaging.

Here’s a look at the top four committees working on either side of Senate and House races. The values-oriented committees are working on House contests, while Coloradans for Fairness is working for Senate Democrats.

Unlike in some other states, in Colorado, candidates can’t accept money from unions or corporations. But these super PACs, which aren’t supposed to coordinate with the candidate or campaigns, may take unlimited amounts from anyone. And they may spend unlimited amounts on advocating for – or more often against – candidates.

Of course, loopholes abound. A quick glance through the expenditures of all the independent spending and 527 committees doesn’t reveal the source of a couple of flyers supporting the two endangered Republican senators.

And while these four legislative committees have raised more than $5.2 million, that’s nothing compared with…

The issue committees

Colorado voters are likely again to see a ballot filled with potential constitutional or statute changes.

Two redistricting measures and others are already on the ballot, placed there by lawmakers.

Signatures are due Monday for a range of other initiatives.

Some of those committees are clearly ready to rumble.

Here’s a look at the top 10 of these folks trying to influence your vote— or your signature— on ballot measures.

Rivaling Polis for raising money is a group called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, or simply Protecting Colorado. That super PAC, fueled by oil and gas interests, has raised $13.1 million, virtually all of it from oil and gas companies.

Protecting Colorado has already spent $7.7 million, much of it on signature gathering.

That group is working against an initiative to increase setbacks of oil and gas development, and for a measure forcing governments to pay property owners if laws or regulations reduce the value of their property.

Here’s a look at the other groups on the list:

  • Coloradans for Coloradans is supporting an initiative to raise the state sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The construction industry and others businesses are supporting the effort.
  • Coloradans to Stop Predatory Payday Loans wants to limit the interest rate on such short-term loans. Among its major donors is the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a national nonprofit involved in both ballot initiatives and congressional contests.
  • Fair Maps Colorado is supporting the two redistricting efforts. It’s backed by DaVita founder Kent Thiry and others
  • Coloradans for Responsible Reform organized to fight an initiative that would have limited residential growth on the Front Range. That effort was ultimately abandoned.
  • Colorado Rising is backing the set-back initiative for oil and gas development. Nonprofit Food and Water Action Fund is its biggest donor, accounting for one-third of the amount raised.
  • Fair Districts is the original committee backing redistricting. It merged with Fair Maps.
  • Fix Our Damn Roads is an initiative aimed at selling bonds for road improvements without a tax hike. It’s backed primarily by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute.
  • Great Schools is backing an effort to raise income taxes on wealthier Coloradans to increase funding for K-12 education. Much of its money comes from unions.
  • Broken Healthcare Action Fund is trying to get health care providers to reveal their charges. It’s funded mostly by individuals.

Thus far this year, only the oil-and-gas backed Protecting Colorado is set to rival the big spending on both sides that came from a 2014 fight over whether to allow casinos in racetracks. That effort failed after $34 million in total spending.

Photo by Chris Potter for Creative Commons on Flickr. 

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