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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.