Big-name GOP donors boost Gardner in 2020

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner speaks at a state assembly at the Colorado Christian University on March 24, 2018. His seat is considered one of the most vulnerable of the 2020 Senate campaign. (Photo by John Herrick)
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner speaks at a state Republican assembly at Colorado Christian University on March 24, 2018. Gardner's seat is considered one of the most vulnerable of the 2020 Senate campaign. (Photo by John Herrick)

WASHINGTON — Earlier this year, former President George W. Bush cut two checks to Sen. Cory Gardner — donating the maximum allowed amount for his primary and general elections in 2020. Former First Lady Laura Bush did the same thing. 

They’re just two of the many high-profile GOP donors plowing cash into Gardner’s campaign this election cycle as the Colorado Republican braces himself for what stands to be one of the most expensive and hard-fought Senate races in 2020.

The Colorado Republican has raised $6.8 million so far this election cycle, including about $4 million in the first six months of 2019, according to his most recent campaign finance report. 

His backers include prominent Republican politicians, GOP mega-donors, energy moguls and the conservative legal activist who’s been called President Trump’s “Supreme Court whisperer.”

Gardner’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But after last quarter’s numbers came in showing Gardner outraising his Democratic opponents, his campaign spokesman, Casey Contres, said in a statement to several outlets that the senator’s strong fundraising “allows him to continue to build the necessary resources to defeat whichever far-left candidate the Democrats nominate next June.”

Here’s a look at some of the influential donors backing Gardner this cycle: 

George W. and Laura Bush

In March, the Bushes each donated a total of $5,600 to Gardner’s campaign, including $2,800 to his primary and another $2,800 slated for the general election. That’s the maximum contribution an individual can give under federal election rules. Gardner is one of just a handful of federal candidates that the Bushes appear to have donated to so far this year. The others include Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan from Alaska and John Cornyn of Texas. 

Leonard Leo

The conservative legal activist and executive vice president of the Federalist Society donated $3,800 to Gardner this year. Leo is widely credited with helping Trump reshape the U.S. Supreme Court. He helped put together Trump’s lists of potential Supreme Court nominees that were released while campaigning in 2016. Those lists included now-Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. After Trump’s election, Leo took a leave of absence from the Federalist Society to help the White House with its confirmations, the Washington Post reported. Gardner voted for both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to join the court. 

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson

Casino magnate Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each maxed out to Gardner’s campaign in June. Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands casino company, is worth $34.6 billion, according to Forbes. He and his wife spent $123 million to boost Republican campaigns and political action committees in 2018.

Coors family

Several members of the Golden, Colo.-based beer and business dynasty have donated to Gardner this cycle. They include Pete Coors, who was chairman of Molson Coors until May. Coors ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2004, losing to Democrat Ken Salazar. His brothers, Jeffrey and John, also donated to Gardner’s campaign this year. 

Koch Industries’ PAC

Koch Industries’ political action committee donated $10,000 to Gardner’s campaign in March, including the maximum allowed $5,000 for the primary and $5,000 for the general election. Billionaire Charles Koch is the CEO of Koch Industries, and the company’s PAC has been a major spender on conservative candidates in past election cycles. 

Frank McNulty

The attorney and former Republican speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives donated $250 to Gardner’s campaign in March. McNulty was in the crowd back in 2014 when Gardner officially announced his plan to run against then-Sen. Mark Udall, the Denver Post reported. 

Harold Hamm 

The Oklahoma billionaire, who is CEO of the oil and gas company Continental Resources Inc., donated $5,000 to Gardner’s campaign in March. Hamm was an informal campaign adviser to Trump in 2016 and was reportedly considered for a post as Trump’s energy secretary. Hamm, who built his billions on hydraulic fracturing, is an outspoken proponent of the drilling technique that’s deeply divisive in Colorado. Gardner said in 2016 that an effort to ban fracking in Colorado posed an “existential threat.” 

Merck executives

The pharmaceutical giant’s CEO Kenneth Frazier and President Robert McMahon both donated to Gardner’s campaign in May. Frazier donated $5,000; McMahon gave $500. 

Democratic competition

Gardner’s Democratic competitors have also raked in donations as they gear up for the March 2020 primary. 

Former state Sen. Mike Johnston leads the pack in fundraising, taking in $3.4 million so far this year. 

Dan Baer, a former Obama administration official, raised $1.4 million so far in 2019. 

Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff has raised $1 million; John Walsh, who was Colorado’s U.S. Attorney under Obama, took in $777,000.

Former Democratic leader in the Colorado House, Alice Madden, has raised $197,000 this year; Colorado State University professor Ellen Burnes has raised $122,000.

Robin Bravender, Newsroom Washington bureau chief, was previously an editor and reporter at E&E News and covered campaign finance and energy at Politico.


  1. Hmmm…Notice that the Coors are the only “Colorado” folks who donated to the fascist and racist gardner…Gardner is not a person who should be in this office…he is derelict in his duty to this state, and to the United States…he is a magamoron, in support of the obvious criminal president…he is not a patriot, and has voted against ALL of our best interests, to please the scum in the White House…Gardner must not be reelected….

  2. The Democrats will need to raise a lot money and fight hard for this seat. However, the fact that Gardner has continued to support Trump, not speaking about his racist tweets and his obstruction of the Mueller investigation and never conducting an in-person Town Hall anywhere in metro Denver should overcome his mega donations. It will please many Coloradans to see him ousted.

  3. The Dems need to get behind a candidate (Andrew Romanof?) and fast. I think people are waiting to donate when they know it will go to the candidate.

  4. Buford, You should be ashamed of yourself. You appear not to have been in Colorado very long, and with your assessment of Our President, and our State Senator, you must have moved from a backward area of country. Donald Trump had 70 years to study our political structure, and those who occupied those positions. And during that he was managing a very competitive and honest, legal business company. Worth a few Millions when his father died, and he took over management. And raised to dealing in Billionaire group, with accountants, lawyers, and managers for the many golf courses, properties, and other projects. All over the world, and he was qualified both globably and USA, Most qualified president we have ever elected. AND HE LEADES FROM THE FRONT.
    ——–USA had fallen out of favor, world wide, with other countries taking advantage of USA. Not any more. All others are paying up for own defense, and building better Defense, just as USA.
    ——-You may not like Cory Gardner, but he is working for all Colorado Citizens, and USA. Unlike the others you seem to like, who are only working for their own bank assets. So buy a few books, or get to learn who Cory Gardner is, and who President Donald Trump is. Both will be with us a bit longer. And I bought my property in 1963, married a Denver woman in 1952. Been here a while.

  5. Frank I find a lot of comfort in the fact that the majority of Coloradans do not share your views on the president* and his complicit senator.

  6. Complicit Cory has an uphill battle in front of him. Imagine having to be an apologist for the most unpopular president in history, and you start to get an idea of the Herculean task in front of him. I’d wager that only losing by six points will be seen as a “victory”, considering Colorado’s evolving demos.

  7. That was last election when brass from Washington came out here to excite he natives, and Nancy Pelosi let it be known to those on plantation who they had better vote for. She will not have that much influence this time, proving she is past prime.
    ——And like my relative who was forced to attend two different student loan activities due to Obama Policies, and I lost Appraisal Value on my home, paid for long ago, dropping from $186,500 to $92,000 from 2006-2008 , raising slightly when both houses on sides of me sold for $150l,000 by the property tippers, in 2015, but in 2019 (Jan) my house is now appraised at $237l,000 after Donald Trump improved the economy . And Cory Gardner has lived in Colorado entire life, I believe. —–
    —–I did not like the policies of last administration, and used to be able to meet and discuss it with them. Not this one. By the way, when I bought in 1963, house was in Dist. #06. Was gerrymandered into Dist #01, then to #istr 07, then back to Dist 06. And house only moves when the wind blows.

  8. I had a very good relationship , years ago with Andrew (Andy) Romanoff, and he was fair, honest with both parties during Governor Bill Owens’ administration. As Secretary to UVC, Colorado (55 plus Veterans organizations) we met often at VFW meeting hall. Andy and I stood at the coffee bar to discuss issues, and also exchanged E-mails. Would have liked to see him campaign this year, for Bennet” position as Senator. Could net vote for both of them. I know they have best interest of Colorado and USA in mind. Not real sure of others so far, who are thinking of getting to Washington to render power over us.

  9. Frank I’d like to introduce you to Paul Krugman. Do a little Google.

    He can shed some light on why your fiscal beliefs are what we’d technically call horseshit in the finance industry.

  10. Note to Jay: I read Krugman, along with lot of others. Also take NR, read New Yorker, and I am not completely impressed with any of them. I make my own decisions, but I do read, watch, and listen to others. Unlike so many of Democrats of today, who are only voting for the Freebies, and are implanted on the plantations. All of my military service (1950 to 1976) I was registered UNAFFILIATED, after a Democrat Lady who registered wife and me, in 1965, then rejected us as voters 3 months later, in same office, because I was in Military, in uniform. I stayed unaffiliated, then voting for Democrats and Republicans as I saw them. So Jay, I have been around the block long time, and learned at 10 years of age, I did not care for the Nationalization that FDR did to Eastern farmers, to keep grain prices up for the Western Producers. Also respected George Will and others but he jumped the traces and decided he could not work with President Donald Trump.

  11. Correct my last comment. Wife and I was rejected in 1956, (not 1965) at Fairborn, Ohio, my home state. I was stationed at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio 1954-1959.

  12. If PK’s facts are facts, which they are, then why support failed trickle down policies?

    That’s a huge question for moderate conservatives.

  13. James Baldwin once said that when white people don’t know what to do about a morally challenging situation they send money. And politics, a deeply challenging moral situation these days, seems to be all about who gets and sends the most money. But as Cory Gardner, running in a state that has become far more blue since he barely won the first time, will find out, the money he rakes in, (including, I’m sure, the usual bushel of gold from the NRA), won’t help. Money doesn’t always win elections. Remember how much the Koch brothers gave Mitt Romney when he ran for President? And how little it got them?. (And I’m sure Walker Stapleton fans lost a bundle too). Send money if you want, but what those opposed to Gardner (everyone I know) need to do is get out and work the phone banks and go door to door when the Democratic nominee for Gardner’s senate seat is announced.

  14. Frank 2525,
    you have your facts wrong. You should probably stop drinking the trump kool aid. Trump was given over 425 million dollars from his father. He is an awful businessman and has lost more money than anyone.

    You are telling someone else to educate themselves. You sir seem to have facts very wrong. Trump has a long history of screwing people over, not paying contractors and not paying bills in general. As a matter of fact he still owes El Paso almost $600,000 for his rally earlier this year. This is not out of the ordinary, this is what he does.

    I find absolutely hilarious that you say he isn’t out to make money for himself. He does everything to make money for himself as a matter of fact he has been called out as the worst president ever in this regards. His hotels alone bring in millions only because of his status as president. Every time he goes to Mara Lego he charges the county for him to stay at a resort that he owns. His hotel in Washington DC made millions when Saudi’s bought out the hotel and didn’t even use most rooms. It was a give to trump. He sells trinkets with the presidential seal on it. It is awful.

    Frank you should really stop watching Fox, they pretend opinions are factual news, they push conspiracy theories as factual news. It is not, it is state tv pushing propaganda.

    As someone else pointed out I am very happy that most Colorado residents do not believe the way you do.

    Get the facts right if you are going to pretend to know them.

  15. Californians continue to move to Colorado and vote the same way that destroyed their own state of California. Must be really dumb to not realize you’re the problem

  16. It’s easy to spot a hateful conservative in CO. It’s whoever cries “I’m a CO Native” the loudest.

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