Colorado A-listers boost Hickenlooper’s 2020 presidential war chest to $2 million

Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters at the Westin Denver Downtown on Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo by John Herrick)

WASHINGTON — John Hickenlooper has some high-profile donors boosting his bid to challenge President Trump for the White House in 2020.

Former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, President Obama’s former “car czar” and the former owner of a famed Denver independent bookstore are among those who shelled out for Hickenlooper’s campaign to clinch the Democratic nomination, according to campaign finance data released this week.

The former Colorado governor’s 2020 presidential campaign raised about $2 million in the first three months of this year, the documents show. He was far outpaced by other Democratic candidates, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who raised about $18.2 million this year. President Trump’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, reported raising a whopping $30 million during that time.

Still, Hickenlooper’s campaign called this year’s haul “strong early fundraising,” according to the Denver Post. The former governor formally kicked off his campaign less than a month before the close of the first quarterly reporting period. Hickenlooper’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Notably, Hickenlooper’s filing reveals some of his early financiers, including prominent politicians, Colorado attorneys, industry executives and others.

Salazar, a former Colorado senator who was interior secretary under President Obama, donated $1,000 to Hickenlooper’s campaign on March 8, the filing shows.

Salazar told the New York Times last year, “I think Hickenlooper could get traction. When you’re a governor in a place like this, you know that to get things done you need to bring people together.” On Tuesday, Salazar added: “I have known John Hickenlooper since before he was in politics. I have been proud to see his great leadership as mayor of Denver and governor of Colorado. John has spent time at our ranch in the San Luis Valley and been blessed by my Mom many times. He will make a great president of the United States.”

Steven Rattner, who led the Obama administration’s auto-industry bailout, was another early Hickenlooper supporter, donating $2,800 — the maximum amount an individual can legally contribute per candidate and per election — to the former governor’s primary. Rattner is now chairman and CEO of Willett Advisors LLC, which invests former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s personal and philanthropic assets.

Gigi Pritzker, a filmmaker — and one of 11 billionaire heirs to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, according to Forbes — also donated $2,800 to Hickenlooper’s campaign in March.

The son of conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, made headlines this week for his $2,800 contribution to the primary campaign of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Democratic primary. James Murdoch also donated $2,800 to Hickenlooper’s 2020 campaign, the filings show. Murdoch, formerly the CEO of 21st Century Fox, is now CEO of the investment firm Lupa Systems.

According to the campaign finance data, more than $1 million of Hickenlooper’s itemized donations — from donors who gave more than $200 — came from within Colorado.

Those include donors from Liberty Media, where Hickenlooper’s wife — Robin Pringle Hickenlooper — is senior vice president of corporate development. Attorneys from prominent Denver-based law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck also contributed, including founding member and chairman of the board, Norman Brownstein.

Robert Rubey of Denver, co-founder of the oil and gas service company Goodnight Midstream, donated $1,000 to Hickenlooper’s campaign. Samuel Gary, president of the Denver-based oil and gas firm Gary-Williams Energy Corp., donated $2,800.

Hickenlooper has come under fire from progressives in his home state who accuse him of being too cozy with oil and gas interests. He said during a CNN town hall in March, “I would hold Colorado’s success in regulating the oil and gas industry and really all of our emissions up against anybody.”

Kimbal Musk — a Boulder restaurateur whose brother is the famous technology entrepreneur Elon Musk — donated $2,800 to Hickenlooper’s campaign.

Other notable Colorado donors include:

  • Pat Stryker, prominent philanthropist and Democratic donor
  • Len Vlahos, author and owner of Denver’s legendary bookstore, the Tattered Cover
  • Joyce Meskis, former longtime owner of Tattered Cover
  • Noel Ginsburg, manufacturing entrepreneur and former gubernatorial hopeful
  • Wellington Webb, former Denver mayor
  • Rutt Bridges, entrepreneur and Democratic Party mover and shaker

Susan Greene and Mike Littwin contributed to this story.


  1. Hickenlooper’s $2 million from someone ramping up a national campaign is enough to get him to the debates at the end of the next quarter. It is pretty close to Inslee’s $2.3 million. It is better (surprisingly) than a few others: Castro at $1.1 million, Delaney at $0.4 million, Gabbard at $1.9 million.

    A bit over a month to go to meet fundraising options to qualify for the debates if he isn’t there already. And he’s already qualified via polling, being at or above 1% in multiple polls.

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